Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Fact Sheets & Briefs

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

Contact:  Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

See Table 1: U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

    On April 8, 2010, Russia and the United States signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The treaty requires the sides to limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 and fielded delivery platforms to 700. The treaty also permits the United States and Russia to conduct 18 annual on-site inspections of facilities operated by the other country. Biannual data exchanges indicate the current state of their strategic forces. For a factsheet on Russian nuclear forces, click here.

    Both the United States and Russia met these limits by the February 2018 deadline, and the limits will hold until February 2021.

    As of March 1, 2020, the United States has 655 deployed strategic delivery systems, 1,373 deployed strategic warheads, and 800 deployed and non-deployed strategic launchers.

    Under New START, the United States retains a deployed strategic force of up to 400 ICBMs, 60 nuclear-capable bombers, and 240 SLBMs.

    •  As of January 2020, the United States deploys 400 Minuteman III ICBMs, all with a single warhead, and an additional 50 non-deployed silo launchers of ICBMs that remain in a warm, operational status.

    •  Some bombers were converted to conventional-only missions (not accountable under New START), and 50 nuclear-capable bombers were deployed as of September 2019. Bombers are not on alert or loaded with weapons in peacetime, and New START counting rules allow each bomber to be counted as “one” deployed warhead, even though bombers can carry up to 16-20 nuclear weapons.

    •  The United States retains all 14 of its strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs), although it reduced the number of SLBM launch tubes per SSBN from 24 to 20, for a total of 280 tubes across the entire fleet. Between two and four submarines are in dry dock at any given time. The United States deployed 220 submarine-launched ballistic missiles as of September 2019.

    In addition to the treaty limit of 700 deployed systems, the treaty allows for 800 deployed and non-deployed missile launchers, and bombers. As of September 2019, the United States retains 454 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, 280 deployed and non-deployed SLBM launchers, and 66 deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers.

    The strategic forces that remain under the treaty are currently being upgraded or replaced. Over the 30 years, the administration plans to invest an estimated $1.7 trillion to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and nuclear delivery systems. For more on U.S. nuclear modernization, see U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs.

    Under New START, both sides release aggregate data on their stockpiles every six months. 


    Table 1: Deployed U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START 

    This table shows how the deployed U.S. strategic nuclear stockpile in 2017 and in 2018, when reductions under New START were completed.

    All figures are from official sources except for shaded warhead numbers, which are best estimates. New START counts each bomber as one warhead, even though bombers can carry many more.

      2017 2018

    Delivery Vehicles

    Est. Warheads

    Delivery Vehicles

    Est. Warheads


    Minuteman III

    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)



    (as of Feb. 2018)



    Trident II D5

    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)



    (as of Feb. 2018)


    Strategic Bombers


    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)



    (as of Feb. 2018)



    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)


    (as of Feb. 2018)

    Total Deployed

    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)


    (as of Sept. 2018)


    (as of Sept. 2018)

    Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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    Biological Weapons Convention Signatories and States-Parties

    November 2020

    Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

    The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) currently has 183 states-parties, including Palestine, and four signatories (Egypt, Haiti, Somalia, and Syria). Ten states have neither signed nor ratified the BWC (Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Israel, Kiribati, Micronesia, Namibia, South Sudan, and Tuvalu). The BWC opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. A country that did not ratify the BWC before it entered into force may accede to it at any time.

    For a guide to the terms of the convention, see The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) at a Glance.

    Country Signature Ratification/Accession
    Afghanistan 4/10/72
    Albania -
    Algeria -
    Andorra -
    Angola -
    Antigua & Barbuda - 1/29/03
    Argentina 8/1/72 11/27/79
    Armenia -
    Australia 4/10/72
    Austria 4/10/72
    Azerbaijan -
    Bahamas - 11/26/86
    Bahrain -
    Bangladesh -
    Barbados 2/16/73 2/16/73
    Belarus 4/10/72
    Belgium 4/10/72
    Belize [1] - 10/20/86
    Benin 4/10/72
    Bhutan -
    Bolivia 4/10/72
    Bosnia and Herzegovina [2] -
    Botswana 4/10/72
    Brazil 4/10/72
    Brunei Darussalam -
    Bulgaria 4/10/72
    Burkina Faso -
    Burundi 4/10/72
    Cambodia 4/10/72
    Cameroon - 1/18/13
    Canada 4/10/72
    Cape Verde -
    Central African Republic 4/10/72 9/25/18
    Chile 4/10/72
    China -
    Colombia 4/10/72
    Congo -
    Cook Islands - 12/4/08
    Costa Rica 4/10/72
    Côte d'Ivoire 5/23/72
    Croatia [2] -
    Cuba 4/12/72
    Cyprus 4/10/72
    Czech Republic [3] -
    Democratic Republic of Congo [4] 4/10/72
    Denmark 4/10/72
    Dominica -
    Dominican Republic 4/10/72
    Ecuador 6/14/72
    Egypt 4/10/72 -
    El Salvador 4/10/72
    Equatorial Guinea -
    Estonia -
    Eswatini -
    Ethiopia 4/10/72
    Fiji 2/22/73
    Finland 4/10/72
    France -
    Gabon 4/10/72
    Gambia 6/2/72
    Georgia -
    Germany [5] 4/10/72
    Ghana 4/10/72
    Greece 4/10/72
    Grenada -
    Guatemala 5/9/72
    Guinea   11/9/16
    Guinea-Bissau -
    Guyana 1/3/73
    Haiti 4/10/72
    Holy See 1/4/02
    Honduras 4/10/72
    Hungary 4/10/72 12/27/72
    Iceland 4/10/72
    India 1/15/73
    Indonesia 6/20/72
    Iran 4/10/72
    Iraq 5/11/72 6/19/91
    Ireland 4/10/72 10/27/72
    Italy 4/10/72
    Jamaica -
    Japan 4/10/72
    Jordan 4/10/72
    Kazakhstan -
    Kenya -
    Kuwait 4/14/72
    Kyrgyzstan - 10/15/04
    Laos 4/10/72
    Latvia -
    Lebanon 4/10/72 3/26/75
    Lesotho 4/10/72
    Liberia 4/10/72
    Libya 4/10/72 1/19/82
    Liechtenstein -
    Lithuania -
    Luxembourg 4/10/72
    Madagascar 10/13/72
    Malawi 4/10/72
    Malaysia 4/10/72
    Maldives -
    Mali 4/10/72
    Malta 9/11/72
    Marshall Islands   11/15/12
    Mauritania   1/28/15
    Mauritius 4/10/72
    Mexico 4/10/72
    Moldova - 1/28/05
    Monaco -
    Mongolia 4/10/72
    Montenegro [6] -
    Morocco 5/2/72
    Mozambique - 3/29/11
    Myanmar 4/10/72  12/1/14
    Nauru - 3/5/13
    Nepal 4/10/72
    Netherlands 4/10/72
    New Zealand 4/10/72
    Nicaragua 4/10/72
    Niger 4/21/72
    Nigeria 7/3/72
    Niue   6/14/18
    North Korea - 3/13/87
    North Macedonia [2] -
    Norway 4/10/72
    Oman -
    Pakistan 4/10/72
    Palau - 2/20/03
    Palestine - 1/9/18
    Panama 5/2/72 3/20/74
    Papua New Guinea -
    Paraguay -
    Peru 4/10/72
    Philippines 4/10/72
    Poland 4/10/72
    Portugal 6/29/72
    Qatar 11/14/72
    Romania 4/10/72
    Russia [7] 4/10/72
    Rwanda 4/10/72
    St. Kitts & Nevis -
    St. Lucia [8] -
    St. Vincent & the Grenadines [8] -
    Samoa   9/21/17
    San Marino 9/12/72
    Sao Tome and Principe - 8/24/79
    Saudi Arabia 4/12/72
    Senegal 4/10/72
    Serbia [2] [6] - 4/27/92
    Seychelles -
    Sierra Leone 11/7/72
    Singapore 6/19/72
    Slovakia [3] -
    Slovenia [2] -
    Solomon Islands [8] -
    Somalia 7/3/72 -
    South Africa 4/10/72
    South Korea 4/10/72
    Spain 4/10/72
    Sri Lanka 4/10/72
    Sudan -
    Suriname -
    Sweden 2/27/74
    Switzerland 4/10/72
    Syria 4/14/72 -
    Tajikistan - 6/27/05
    Tanzania 8/16/72
    Thailand 1/17/73
    Timor Leste - 5/5/03
    Togo 4/10/72
    Tonga - 9/28/76
    Trinidad & Tobago - 7/19/07
    Tunisia 4/10/72
    Turkey 4/10/72
    Turkmenistan - 1/11/96
    Uganda -
    Ukraine 4/10/72
    United Arab Emirates 9/28/72
    United Kingdom 4/10/72
    United States 4/10/72
    Uruguay -
    Uzbekistan -
    Vanuatu -
    Venezuela 4/10/72
    Vietnam 4/10/72
    Yemen [9] 4/26/72
    Zambia -
    Zimbabwe -

    Taiwan (the Republic of China) has also stated its intent to abide by the treaty, despite not being a state party. The Republic of China signed the treaty on April 10, 1972 and ratified it on February 9, 1973.

    Source: UN Website

    Research assistance by Marissa Papatola


    1. Succession from the United Kingdom

    2. Succession from Yugoslavia

    3. Succession from Czechoslovakia

    4. Ratification as Zaire

    5. Ratification as East Germany and West Germany

    6. Ratified as Serbia and Montenegro

    7. Ratified as the Soviet Union

    8. Succession from the United Kingdom

    9. Ratified as South Yemen and North Yemen

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    The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) At A Glance

    September 2018

    Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107


    The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is a legally binding treaty that outlaws biological arms. After being discussed and negotiated in the United Nations' disarmament forum starting in 1969, the BWC opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. It currently has 183 states-parties, including Palestine, and four signatories (Egypt, Haiti, Somalia, Syria, and Tanzania). Ten states have neither signed nor ratified the BWC (Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Israel, Kiribati, Micronesia, Namibia, South Sudan and Tuvalu).

    Terms of the Treaty

    The BWC bans:

    • The development, stockpiling, acquisition, retention, and production of:
      1. Biological agents and toxins "of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;"
      2. Weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles "designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict."
    • The transfer of or assistance with acquiring the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles described above.

    The convention further requires states-parties to destroy or divert to peaceful purposes the "agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery" described above within nine months of the convention's entry into force. The BWC does not ban the use of biological and toxin weapons but reaffirms the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits such use. It also does not ban biodefense programs.


    The treaty regime mandates that states-parties consult with one another and cooperate, bilaterally or multilaterally, to solve compliance concerns. It also allows states-parties to lodge a complaint with the UN Security Council if they believe other member states are violating the convention. The Security Council can investigate complaints, but this power has never been invoked. Security Council voting rules give China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States veto power over Security Council decisions, including those to conduct BWC investigations.

    Membership and Duration

    The BWC is a multilateral treaty of indefinite duration that is open to any country. 


    The convention has been flagrantly violated in the past. The Soviet Union, a state-party and one of the convention's depositary states, maintained an enormous offensive biological weapons program after ratifying the BWC. Russia says that this program has been terminated, but questions remain about what happened to elements of the Soviet program. Iraq violated its commitments as a signatory state with its biological weapons program, which was uncovered by the UN Special Commission on Iraq after the Persian Gulf War. Iraq became a state-party after the war.

    In November 2001, the United States publicly accused Iraq, as well as member state North Korea, of breaching the convention's terms. Washington also expressed concern about compliance by Iran and Libya, which are also states-parties, and by Syria. The United States itself raised concerns in 2001 about whether some of its activities, ostensibly being conducted as part of its biodefense program, are permitted under the BWC. In 2002, Washington added Cuba, also a state-party, to its list of countries conducting activities that violate the convention.

    In a 2017 report on compliance with the BWC, the United States indicated that Russia was the only state to have outstanding compliance issues with the BWC.

    Review Conferences

    States-parties have convened a review conference about every five years to review and improve upon the treaty's implementation.

    Second Review Conference

    In an effort to enhance confidence and promote cooperation among states-parties, at the second BWC review conference in 1986 member states agreed to implement a set of confidence-building measures. Under these politically binding measures, states should:

    • Exchange data on high-containment research centers and laboratories or on centers and laboratories that specialize in permitted biological activities related to the convention.
    • Exchange information on abnormal outbreaks of infectious diseases.
    • Encourage the publication of biological research results related to the BWC and promote the use of knowledge gained from this research.
    • Promote scientific contact on biological research related to the convention.

    Third Review Conference

    At the third BWC review conference in 1991, the scope of the first measure was expanded to include national biological defense programs and the second and fourth measures were slightly modified. In addition, three more measures were added to this list. States should:

    • Declare legislation, regulations, and "other measures" pertaining to the BWC.
    • Declare offensive or defensive biological research and development programs in existence since January 1, 1946.
    • Declare vaccine production facilities.

    These endeavors have been largely unsuccessful; the vast majority of states-parties have consistently failed to submit declarations on their activities and facilities.

    The 1991 review conference also tasked a group of "governmental experts" to evaluate potential verification measures for use in a future compliance protocol to the BWC. The group subsequently considered 21 such measures and submitted a report to a special conference of states-parties in 1994. Building off this report, the conference tasked a second body, known as the Ad Hoc Group, with negotiating a legally binding protocol to the BWC to strengthen the convention.

    Ad Hoc Group

    The Ad Hoc Group met from January 1995 to July 2001 and aimed to finish its work before the fifth review conference, which began in November 2001. During the course of the negotiations, the group developed a protocol that envisioned states submitting to an international body declarations of treaty-relevant facilities and activities. That body would conduct routine on-site visits to declared facilities and could conduct challenge inspections of suspect facilities and activities as well.

    However, a number of fundamental issues—such as the scope of on-site visits and the role export controls would play in the regime—proved difficult to resolve. In March 2001, the Ad Hoc Group's chairman issued a draft protocol containing language attempting to strike a compromise on disputed issues. But in July 2001, at the Ad Hoc Group's last scheduled meeting, the United States rejected the draft and any further protocol negotiations, claiming such a protocol could not help strengthen compliance with the BWC and could hurt U.S. national security and commercial interests.

    Fifth Review Conference

    The fifth BWC review conference, which many experts thought could resolve the fate of the Ad Hoc Group, was suspended on its last day, December 7, 2001, after the United States tabled a controversial proposal to terminate the Ad Hoc Group's mandate and replace it with an annual meeting of BWC states parties. The United States was the only country that favored revoking the group's mandate. The states parties resumed the fifth review conference in November 2002, but failed to agree on any verification measures, including the proposed protocol.

    Sixth Review Conference

    The sixth BWC review conference, which met between November 20 and December 8, 2006, was the was the first successful review conference since 1996, reaching agreement on a final document

    The conference produced a list of four work programs held each successive year until the next review conference in 2011.

    Some issues that enjoyed broad-based support did not make it into the work program. The United States and Russia opposed proposals to reform confidence-building measures on the basis that participation in the existing mechanisms is poor. Russia was the primary factor behind bio-terrorism being dropped from the list of agenda items.

    States parties did agree to address the BWC’s institutional deficit through the creation of the Implementation Support Unit (ISU), which is staffed by three permanent employees based in Geneva. The permanent staff members will be paid by the BWC and will be housed in the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs in Geneva. Previously, the BWC review conference was only supported on a part-time basis.

    The ISU’s mandate is to provide administrative support for the BWC as well as facilitating confidence-building measures between states parties. The ISU will, among other things, serve to ease communication between states parties, as well as compile and disseminate confidence-building measures submitted from states parties.

    Since the conclusion of the 2006 review conference the ISU has been strengthened in terms of budget and staff. Despite initial U.S. opposition, an EU proposal to allow states parties to make additional, voluntary contributions to the ISU was accepted during the 2007 annual meeting. The United States originally objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would increase the responsibility of the ISU. However, this problem was resolved through a statement stressing that the ISU has only three staff members, and any contributions are only designed to assist the ISU in completing its mandate. During the 2008 meeting of states parties, the EU provided a $2 million dollar donation to the ISU in order to pay for two additional staff members for the following two years. The two new staff are officially assigned to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, to avoid any conflict over a perceived expansion of ISU.

    Seventh Review Conference

    The seventh BWC review conference was held in December 2011. The Final Declaration document concluded that “under all circumstances the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons is effectively prohibited by the Convention and affirms the determination of States parties to condemn any use of biological agents or toxins other than for peaceful purposes, by anyone at any time."

    Eighth Review Conference

    The eighth BWC review conference took place in November 2016. At the end of the conference, delegates agreed to a future one-week meeting of states-parties at the end of the year and a five-year extension of the BWC Implementation Support Unit.

    Updated by Wanda Archy.

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    U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs

    August 2018

    Contact: Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104


    Cost Overview

    The United States maintains an arsenal of about 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and Strategic Bombers and some 180 tactical nuclear weapons at bomber bases in five European countries.

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published a major report in October 2017 that estimates the nuclear weapons spending plans President Donald Trump inherited from his predecessor will cost taxpayers $1.2 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars between fiscal years 2017 and 2046. This amounts to about 6 percent of all spending on national defense anticipated for that period, as of President Barack Obama’s final budget request to Congress in February 2016. When the effects of inflation are included, the 30-year cost would approach $1.7 trillion, according to a projection by the Arms Control Association.

    The CBO estimate captures spending on the triad of nuclear delivery systems and command and control systems at the Defense Department and on nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure at the Energy Department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Nearly every element of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is slated to be upgraded over the next 20 years. Most of these efforts are in the early stages, and a few others have yet to begin.

    Other nuclear-armed states, notably Russia and China, are upgrading their arsenals and have tested, produced, and deployed more brand new systems than the United States over the past decade. But the U.S. military has upgraded and refurbished nearly all of its existing strategic and tactical delivery systems and the warheads they carry to last well beyond their originally planned service life and is now in the early stages of replacing many of these aging systems with new systems. Though decades old, these modernized forces are more capable than the originals and the new systems will include additional capability upgrades. The current and planned U.S. financial investment in nuclear forces is unrivaled by any other nuclear power.

    Gen. Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2017 that while Russia and China continue to modernize their nuclear forces, "we [the United States] do have a qualitative advantage." 

    The Trump administration, as outlined in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) released on Feb. 2, 2018, intends to continue the modernization plan laid out by the Obama administration, and also develop several new nuclear weapons capabilities that will add to the price tag for nuclear forces, including the near-term development of a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and the longer-term development of new nuclear submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM).

    The NPR acknowledges that the upgrade costs are “substantial” but claims that nuclear weapons will consume no more than 6.4 percent of the defense budget. This projection does not include the cost of the new capabilities proposed in the review nor the major costs that must be borne by NNSA to upgrade nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure.

    The CBO estimates that annual spending on nuclear weapons will peak at about $50 billion during the late 2020s and early 2030s. During this period, nuclear weapons would consume about 8 percent of total national defense spending and 15 percent of the Defense Department’s acquisition costs. The CBO estimate includes the full cost to sustain and upgrade long-range strategic bombers.

    White House and Pentagon officials and defense budget watchers have expressed concern that the current triad modernization plans may not be executable in the absence of significant and sustained increases to overall military spending in the coming 15-20 years, in large part due to the fact that nuclear costs are scheduled to rise and overlap with a large "bow wave" in projected spending on conventional weapon system modernization programs, as well as rising personnel and readiness costs.

    Former head of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. Robert Kehler said in November 2017 that he is "skeptical that we are capable of remaining committed to a long-term project like this [nuclear modernization] without basically messing with it and screwing it up."

    The 2011 Budget Control Act puts in place caps on military spending through 2021. According to the CBO, in the long-term an aging population, rising health care costs, and the rising interest on the national debt will constrain the amount of funding available for discretionary spending, including defense spending, if tax revenues do not increase significantly. However, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increased the FY 2018 cap for national defense spending by $80 billion to $269 billion and increased the FY 2019 cap by $85 billion to $647 billion. Regardless, pressure on the defense budget and the implicit trade-offs within that budget are likely to persist into the 2020s and 2030s. 

    For FY 2019 President Trump requested $11 billion to fund NNSA's nuclear weapons activities. This represents a massive 19 percent increase over the FY 2017 appropriation and reflects the direction in the NPR to significantly expand the agency’s work to prepare the United States to develop, test, and deploy new nuclear weapons and to increase the size of the nuclear stockpile. According to former deputy NNSA administrator Madelyn Creedon, “The biggest challenge laid out in the 2018 report is the new assignment for the NNSA.”

    A U.S. Government Accountability Office report issued last year, warned that the “NNSA’s plans to modernize its nuclear weapons do not align with its budget, raising affordability concerns.” And former agency administrator Frank Klotz said in a Jan. 23 interview just two days after leaving office that the agency is “working pretty much at full capacity.”

    Nuclear Modernization Snapshot

    The overall nuclear modernization effort includes: 

    • Modernized Strategic Delivery Systems: Existing U.S. nuclear delivery systems are undergoing continual modernization, including complete rebuilds of the Minuteman III ICBM and Trident II SLBM. The service lives of the Navy’s 14 Trident Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are being extended. Additionally, a new submarine, the Columbia class, which will replace the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, is undergoing development and is expected to cost about $128 billion to develop, according to the Defense Department. The B-2 strategic bomber, a relatively new system, is being upgraded, as is the B-52H bomber. The Air Force is also planning a new strategic bomber, the B-21, and a new nuclear-capable cruise missile, known as the Long-Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO) to replace the existing Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).
    • Refurbished Nuclear Warheads: The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads and bombs is continually refurbished through NNSA’s Life Extension Program (LEP). Existing warheads are certified annually to be safe and reliable. The NNSA is currently pursuing a controversial and expensive plan to consolidate the existing number of nuclear warhead types from 10 down to 5, although this program has been delayed. Known as the "3+2" strategy, the five LEPs associated with this approach are estimated to cost over $60 billion.
    • Modernized Production Complex: The nuclear weapons production complex is being modernized as well, with new facilities planned and funded. For example, the FY 2019 NNSA budget request includes $703 million for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The total construction cost for UPF is estimated at $6.5 – 7.5 billion, according to an independent study conducted by the Corps of Engineers, although some estimates put the price tag at $11 billion. NNSA has pledged to complete construction by 2025 for $6.5 billion.
    • Command and Control Systems: The Defense Department maintains command, control, communications, and early-warning systems that allow operators to communicate with nuclear forces, issue commands that control their use, and detect or rule out incoming attacks. The department plans to spend $40.5 billion on these activities between FY 2017 and FY 2026. This estimate is probably understated as the Pentagon is still developing its plan for modernizing these systems. In addition, the 2018 NPR calls for placing greater attention and focus on sustaining and upgrading command and control capabilities. 
    • Nuclear Force Improvement Program: In the wake of revelations of professional and ethical lapses and poor morale in the U.S. nuclear force, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in November 2014 steps the department is taking to address the numerous setbacks. These include changing the conduct of inspections to reduce the burden on airmen and sailors, eliminating micromanagement of nuclear personnel seen as overtaxed by excessive bureaucratic and administrative requirements, and elevating the head of Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the Air Force’s nuclear forces, from a three- to a four-star rank.

    Nuclear Modernization Overview

    The following is a status update of existing programs to enhance the nuclear stockpile and modernize the delivery systems that make up each element of the U.S. nuclear triad:

    1. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) 

    The United States Air Force currently deploys about 400 Minuteman III ICBMs (as of February 5, 2018) located at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; and Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. U.S. nuclear-armed ICBMs are on high alert, meaning the missiles can be fired within minutes of a presidential decision to do so. Under the New START treaty, the United States maintains 50 extra missile silos in a "warm" reserve status.

    Today's Minuteman weapon system is the product of almost 40 years of continuous enhancement. The Pentagon has spent over $7 billion over the past 15 years on life extension efforts to keep the ICBMs safe, secure and reliable through 2030. This modernization program has resulted in an essentially "new" missile, expanded targeting options, and improved accuracy and survivability. 

    Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent

    The Air Force is planning to replace the Minuteman III missile, its supporting launch control facilities, and command and control infrastructure. The Air Force intends to purchase over 600 missiles, 400 of which would be operationally deployed through 2070. The remaining missiles would be used for test flights and as spares. The replacement program is known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). The service is seeking to make significant capability upgrades as part of the recapitalization program. The Pentagon in August 2016 set the estimated acquisition cost of the program at $85 billion and the total life-cycle cost at $238 billion (in then-year dollars). The $85 billion estimate is at the lower-end of an independent Pentagon cost-estimate that put the acquisition price tag as high as $140 billion.

    For FY 2019, the Trump administration requested $345 million for the program, a 60 percent increase over 2018.  On Aug. 21, 2017, the Air Force awarded contracts to both Boeing Company and Northrop Grumman to continue development and begin design of the new ICBM system.

    W78 and W87 Warheads

    The Air Force has also upgraded the Minuteman’s nuclear warheads by partially replacing older W78 warheads with newer and more powerful W87 warheads, formerly deployed on the now-retired MX Peacekeeper ICBMs. The W87 entered the U.S. stockpile in 1986, making it one of the newest warheads in the arsenal with the most modern safety and security features, including insensitive high explosive and a fire-resistant pit design, which can help to minimize the possibility of plutonium dispersal in the event of an accident. Under a 2004 LEP, the W87 warhead was refurbished to extend its service life past 2025.

    NNSA has proposed a joint LEP to field a common, refurbished warhead to replace the W78 and W88 (see SLBMs, below). Congress approved NNSA's 2014 proposal to delay production of this warhead by five years from 2025 to 2030. However, the 2018 NPR proposes to accelerate the program by one year and the FY 2019 budget request would provide $53 million for the project.

    2. Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and Submarines

    The United States Navy deploys, as of February 2018, 203 Trident II D5 SLBMs on 12 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) based out of Bangor, Washington (7 boats) and Kings Bay, Georgia (5 boats). The Ohio-class submarines have a service life of 42 years — two twenty-year cycles with a two-year mid-life nuclear refueling. The total fleet includes 14 boats but due to the refueling process, only 12 SSBNs are operational at any given time. Four to five submarines are believed to be "on station" in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans ready to fire their missiles at targets at any given time.

    The Ohio-class SSBNs were first deployed in 1981, and will reach the end of their services at a rate of approximately one boat per year between 2027 and 2040. The Navy plans to replace each retiring boat, starting in 2031, with a new class of ballistic missile submarine, now referred to as the Columbia class. The Navy originally planned to begin using the replacement boats in 2029, but in 2012 the Pentagon announced a two-year delay to the replacement program. This pushed back completion of the first new submarine to 2031.

    Taking into account the delay, the Navy now plans to purchase the first Columbia class submarine in 2021, the second in 2024, and one per year between 2026 and 2035. The first vessel is scheduled to become operational in 2031. As a result, the Navy will field 10 ballistic missile submarines between 2030 and 2040. 

    In its FY 2019 request, the Navy asked for $3.7 billion for the Columbia class program — a 97 percent increase over 2018, making it the second-most expensive program in the 2019 Pentagon budget request, next to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Navy ultimately wants 12 boats, and in 2017 estimated the cost to develop and buy the submarines to be $128 billion in then-year dollars at the total life-cycle cost to be $267 billion. However, a report on the Columbia class program published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December 2017 warned that the program is not adequately funded to address program risks and that the acquisition cost is likely to exceed $128 billion.

    Under New START, each Ohio-class submarine serves as a launch platform for up to 20 SLBMs loaded with up to eight warheads each, or 240 total SLBMs. The Columbia class will carry up to 16 SLBMs, for a maximum of 192 deployed SLBMs when the fleet is fully converted to the new boats in 2040.

    Trident II D5 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles

    First deployed in 1990, the force of Trident II D5 missiles has been successfully tested over 160 times since design completion in 1989 and is continuously evaluated. (By contrast, Russia's newest SLBM, the Bulava, has failed in roughly half its flight tests.) The Trident II D5 LEP is underway to modernize key components, notably the electronics, and extend the life of the missile until 2042. In 2008, 12 life-extended variants of the D5 were purchased; 24 D5s were produced each year through 2012 for a total of 108 missiles at a total cost of $15 billion. The first modified D5s were deployed in 2013. The Navy’s FY 2019 budget request includes a proposed $1.23 billion to fund the Trident II LEP. 

    The Pentagon has yet to establish replacement program of record for the Trident II (D5), development of which is likely to begin in the 2020s.

    W76 and W88 Warheads

    The D5 SLBMs are armed with approximately 768 W76 and 384 W88 warheads. In 2009, NNSA began delivery of the W76-1, a refurbished version of the W76 that extends its service life for an additional 30 years. NNSA plans to complete the $4 billion production of up to 2,000 W76-1 warheads by 2019. NNSA requested $114 million for the W76 life extension program for FY 2019, down from $222 million the year before. 

    The W88 entered the stockpile in 1989, making it the newest warhead in the arsenal. The W88 was the last U.S. warhead produced before the Rocky Flats Plants - which made plutonium "pits" - was shut down in 1989. NNSA re-established pit production capacity at Los Alamos National Laboratory with the first "certifiable" pit in 2003, and new production resumed in 2007. A new plutonium research and pit production facility, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), was planned for Los Alamos, but was put on hold for budget reasons in 2012. 

    With the rebuilt Trident D5 missile in service to 2042, the W76-1's life extended to 2040-50, the relatively new W88 in service, and a new class of SSBNs lasting into the 2070s, the U.S. Navy’s Trident Fleet will be kept robust and modern deep into the 21st century.

    3. Strategic Bombers

    The United States Air Force currently maintains 13 deployed B-2 Spirit bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and 36 deployed B-52H bombers at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, that can be equipped for nuclear missions as of September 2017.  

    Projected spending on nuclear weapons modernization programs could account for as much as 19% of estimated Pentagon modernization spending over the next 15 years, according to a recent analysis of 120 planned major Defense Department acquisition programs. (Source: Todd Harrison, CSIS)

    B-52H Bomber

    The B-52H fleet, first deployed in 1961, has an on-going modification program, beginning in 1989, incorporating updates to the global positioning system, updating the weapons capabilities to accommodate a full array of advanced weapons developed after the procurement of the B-52H, and modifying the heavy stores adapter beams to allow the B-52H to carry up to 2,000 pound munitions and a total of 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance armaments. In FY 2011 the Air Force added to its modernization efforts for the B-52H, receiving funding for the Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) program, which updates the B-52 computer infrastructure. The upgrade is projected to cost a total of $1.1 billion.

    The B-52H is expected to remain in service until 2040. 

    B-2 Bomber

    The Air Force continually modernizes the B-2 fleet, which first became operational in 1997 and is expected to last through 2058.

    Ongoing B-2 modifications include an incremental three-part program to update the Extremely High Frequency Satellite Communications and Computer Upgrade program (EHF SATCOM). Increment 1 will upgrade the B-2’s flight management computers. Increment 2 provides more secure and survivable strategic communications by integrating the Family of Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals with the low observable antenna. Increment 3 connects the B-2 with the Global Information Grid. The Air Force also began procuring components for a Radar Modernization Program (RMP) in FY 2009. The RMP includes replacing the original radar antenna and upgrading radar avionics.

    The Air Force announced in February 2018 that "once sufficient B-21 aircraft are operational, the B-1s and B-2s will be incrementally retired."

    B-21 Bomber

    The Air Force is planning to purchase at least 100 new, dual-capable long-range penetrating bombers that will replace the B-1 and B-52 bombers. Known as the B-21, the Pentagon estimates the average procurement unit cost per aircraft will be between $546 million and $606 million (in Fy 2016 dollars). Fielding is slated to begin in the mid- 2020s. The Trump administration requested $2.3 billion for the program in FY2019. The Air Force plans to spend $38.5 billion between FY 2017 and FY 2026 on research and development for the new bomber (in then-year dollars). The Air Force has refused to release the value of the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp. in October 2015 to begin developing the B-21 program and the estimated total cost of the program, citing classification concerns.

    The CBO estimates the B-21 program will cost $97 billion (in FY 2017 constant dollars).

    Air-Launched Cruise Missile and Long-Range Standoff Cruise Missile

    The B-52H carries the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), first deployed in 1981. Each ALCM carries a W80-1 warhead, first produced in 1982. The Air Force retained roughly 570 nuclear-capable ALCMs as of the spring of 2015. Roughly 200 of these missiles are believed to be deployed at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota with the W80-1 nuclear warhead. 

    Some reports indicate that the reliability of the ALCM could be in jeopardy due to aging components which are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

    The Air Force is developing the long-range standoff cruise missile (LRSO) to replace the existing ALCM. The new missile will be compatible with the B-2 and B-52H bombers, as well as the planned B-21. The first missile is slated to be produced in 2026. The LRSO would carry the refurbished W80-4 warhead.

    The current Air Force procurement plan for the LRSO calls for about 1,000 new nuclear-capable missiles, roughly double the size of the existing fleet of ALCMs. According to the service, the planned purchase of 1,000 missiles includes far more missiles than it plans to arm and deploy with nuclear warheads. For FY 2019, NNSA requested $654 million for the W80-4, making it the second-most expensive nuclear warhead, next to the B61-12. In addition,  the Air Force requested $615 million for development of the LRSO missile.

    The Pentagon projects the cost to acquire the new missile fleet at about $11 billion (in then-year dollars) and the cost to operate and sustain the missile fleet over its expected life at over $6 billion (in constant FY 2016 dollars). The Energy Department projects the cost of the life extension program for the ALCM warhead to be between $8 billion and $11.6 billion (in then-year dollars).

    B61 and B83 Warheads

    The B-2 carries the B61 and B83 strategic gravity bombs. The B61 has several mods, 3, 4, 7, 10, and 11. B61-3 and B61-4 are non-strategic weapons deployed in Europe for NATO aircraft as part of America’s extended nuclear commitment.

    The B61-7 and B61-11 are strategic weapons deployed on the B-2 bomber. An LEP recently extended the life of the B61-7 for an additional 20 years by refurbishing the bomb’s secondary stage (canned subassembly) and replacing the associated seals, foam supports, cables and connectors, washers, o-rings, and limited life components. The ongoing B61 LEP would combine mods 3, 4, and 7 into a single bomb, the B61 mod 12. The B61-12 is slated to begin production in 2020 and will refurbish the bomb  with new firing, arming, and safety components, updated radar components, permissive action link components and equipment, modified power supplies, thermal batteries, join test assemblies, weapon trainers, and test and handling gear.  The LEP will also modify the B61 for compatibility with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The LEP will extend the life of the B61s for 20-30 years.

    An updated assessment of the B61 life extension program (LEP) performed by the NNSA in 2016 put the direct cost of the program at $7.6 billion, an increase of $200 million over the agency’s estimate of $7.4 billion provided in its fiscal year 2017 budget materials. The NNSA’s independent Office of Cost Estimating and Program Evaluation, however, told the GAO that its assessment of the program projects a total cost of approximately $10 billion and a two-year delay to the agency’s estimated March 2020 first production-unit date. NNSA requested $794 million for the B61 LEP in FY 2019. 

    The upgraded B61 will be equipped with a new tail-kit guidance assembly that will make the bomb more accurate and allow it to have a lower yield than some of the existing variants. The new tail kit is being developed by the Air Force and is estimated to cost $1.3 billion.

    The B83 was first produced in 1983, making it one of the newer weapons in the stockpile and the only remaining megaton-class weapon in the stockpile. The B83 has the most modern safety and security features, including insensitive high explosive and a fire-resistant pit. 

    The Obama administration stated that the B83 would be retired once confidence in the B61 mod 12 is projected to be achieved in the mid 2020s. However, the Trump NPR reverses this decision and calls for retaining the B83 until a suitable replacement is found.


    Department of Defense Programs


    Modernization Plan


    Length of Deployment

    Additional Information

    Minuteman III ICBM

    Modernization and Replacement Program

    $7 billion

    through 2030 

    Modernizes the propellant, guidance systems, propulsion system, targeting system, reentry vehicles and continues work on the rocket motors

    New ICBM (GBSD)

    Replace the Minuteman III missile and associated launch control and command and control facilities

    $85-$140 billion (DoD estimate; FY 2017-2046)


    Air Force plans to purchase over 600 new ICBMs

    B-2 Bomber

    Modernization Program

    $9.5 billion (FY 2000-2014)


    Improves radar and high frequency satellite communications capabilities for nuclear command and control

    B-52H Bomber

    On-going modifications



    Incorporates global positioning systems, updates computers and modernizes heavy stores adapter beams, and a full array of advance weapons

    Long Range Strike Bomber (B-21)

    Research and development phase

    $38.5 billion (FY 2017-2026)


    The exact specifications of the new bomber are classified

    Long Range Standoff Cruise Missile (LRSO)

    Replacement for the ALCM

    $20 billion (estimated; includes cost of W80-4 warhead refurbishment)


    Air Force plans to procure ~1,000 LRSOs

    Columbia Class SSBN (SSBN(X))

    New ballistic missile submarine

    $128 billion (2016 Navy acquisition estimate)

    2031 - 2080s

    Navy plans to purchase 12 new submarines to replace the existing 14 Ohio-class submarines

    Trident II D5 SLBM LEP

    Modernization and life extension

    $6 billion (FY 2019-2023



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    The U.S. Atomic Energy Act Section 123 At a Glance

    April 2019

    Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

    Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 establishes the conditions and outlines the process for major nuclear cooperation between the United States and other countries. In order for a country to enter into such an agreement with the United States, that country must commit to a set of nine nonproliferation criteria. As of January 15, 2019, the United States has entered into 26 nuclear cooperation agreements that govern nuclear cooperation with 49 countries, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Taiwan. 

    The nine nonproliferation criteria for section 123 agreements are as follows:

    • Nuclear material and equipment transferred to the country must remain under safeguards in perpetuity.
    • Non-nuclear-weapon states partners must have full-scope IAEA safeguards, essentially covering all major nuclear facilities.
    • A guarantee that transferred nuclear material, equipment, and technology will not have any role in nuclear weapons development or any other military purpose, except in the case of cooperation with nuclear-weapon states.
    • In the event that a non-nuclear-weapon state partner detonates a nuclear device using nuclear material produced or violates an IAEA safeguards agreement, the United States has the right to demand the return of any transfers.
    • U.S. consent is required for any re-transfer of material or classified data.
    • Nuclear material transferred or produced as a result of the agreement is subject to adequate physical security.
    • U.S. prior consent rights to the enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear material obtained or produced as a result of the agreement.
    • Prior U.S. approval is required for highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium obtained or produced as a result of the agreement.  An agreement permitting enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) using U.S. provided material requires separate negotiation.
    • The above nonproliferation criteria apply to all nuclear material or nuclear facilities produced or constructed as a result of the agreement.

    Section 123 requires that the Department of State submit a Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) explaining how the nuclear cooperation agreement meets these nonproliferation conditions. Congress has a total of 90 days in continuous session to consider the agreement, after which it automatically becomes law unless Congress adopts a joint resolution opposing it.

    The President may exempt a proposed agreement from any of the above criteria upon determination maintaining such a criteria would be “seriously prejudicial to the achievement of U.S. non-proliferation objectives or otherwise jeopardize the common defense of the United States.” Exempted 123 agreements would then go through a different process than non-exempt agreements, requiring a congressional joint resolution approving the agreement for it to become law. There are no 123 agreements in force that were adopted with such exemptions.

    In 2006, Congress passed the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act which amended the AEA to permit nuclear cooperation with India, a country which is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not maintain full-scope safeguards. The Hyde amendment has been criticized for undermining U.S. international counterproliferation efforts. The 40-year 123 agreement with India came into force in December 2008.

    Most recently, the United States negotiated and signed new agreements with the United Arab Emirates in 2009 (notable for having “gold standard” provisions) and Vietnam in 2014 and signed new agreements to replace existing ones with Australia in 2010, Taiwan in 2013 (which also included “gold standard” provisions), China and South Korea in 2015, and Norway in 2016. “Gold standard” provisions refer to a country agreeing to forgo enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear material.

    The Trump administration submitted signed new 123 agreements with Mexico and the United Kingdom to Congress in May 2018. The United Kingdom was previously covered under the U.S.-European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) 123 agreement, but after the UK withdraws from the European Union, the bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the EU will take effect. Japan’s agreement technically expired in 2018, but renewal terms dictate that the agreement shall remain in force until terminated by a party.

    The Trump administration is currently negotiating a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia. The next agreement which will expire without renewal terms in place (which could trigger an easier automatic renewal without the need to renegotiate or resubmit the agreement to Congress) will be with Egypt in December 2021.

    For more information on individual agreements, see the "Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer," by the Congressional Research Service.

    The "Gold Standard"

    A 123 agreement alone does not permit countries to enrich or reprocess nuclear material acquired from the United States and permission to do so requires a further negotiated agreement.  A debate is currently underway in the nonproliferation community over the “gold standard,” named so following the U.S.-UAE 123 agreement signed in 2009 whereby the United Arab Emirates (UAE) voluntarily renounced pursuing enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies and capabilities.  The UAE agreement stands in stark contrast to the “blanket consent” granted to India, Japan, and EURATOM, who have ENR approval from the United States. 

    Additionally, the UAE also agreed to ratify the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Model Additional Protocol. The Additional Protocol aims to gather a more comprehensive picture of a state’s nuclear and nuclear-related activities, including related imports and exports, as well as substantially expanding the IAEA’s inspections authorities. The United States has not in recent years negotiated a 123 agreement with a state that had not signed an additional protocol.

    ENR capabilities are controversial because the process transforms raw uranium into highly enriched uranium or spent nuclear fuel into weapons-grade plutonium. While these capabilities are generally used for energy purposes, there are concerns of serious proliferation risks when a country obtains the technology because the same technology can be used to make nuclear weapons. Gold standard provisions for 123 agreements would require any state-party to a 123 agreement with the United States to renounce ENR activities. The Department of Energy and the U.S. nuclear industry advocate a continuance of the case-by-case approach followed thus far in renewal agreements. A case-by-case approach allows countries to apply for ENR permission, and has been successfully pursued by India and Japan.

    The term “gold standard” was coined during the very end of the George W. Bush administration when the U.S.-UAE deal was signed in January 2009, and it was declared the new standard for nuclear cooperation agreements, though several subsequent agreements did not uphold the supplementary standard under the Obama administration. A 2011 letter from the Obama administration to Capitol Hill renounced the idea of a uniform approach to 123 agreements and advocated for a case-by-case approach in future negotiations.  (See ACT, March 2012). The Trump administration has been even less clear on their position regarding gold standard provisions. This has been particularly prevalent in the ongoing negotiations on a Saudi Arabia 123 agreement.

    Ongoing Saudi Negotiations and Congressional Actions

    The Trump administration began formal negotiations on a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia in February 2018, though negotiations have been off-and-on since 2012. The negotiations are being led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry,. Though some officials, particularly at the State Department, have said that the administration is pressing Saudi Arabia to commit to forgoing the ability to make nuclear fuel and to adopt the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, reports suggest Saudi Arabia has been resisting these restrictions. Concerns about nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia grew after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last year that Saudi Arabia would develop nuclear weapons if Iran did and after the October 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

    Congress has shown bipartisan support for both encouraging gold standard provisions and a more active role for Congress in overseeing both the ongoing negotiations with Saudi Arabia specifically, and 123 agreement more broadly. Members of Congress have expressed concern over reports on senior administration officials’ potential conflict of interest in negotiating a US-Saudi civil nuclear cooperation agreement, and the secrecy around the current negotiations and recently provided authorizations by the Trump administration, claiming that they have not been appropriately appraised as per the Atomic Energy Act.

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    The U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance

    July 2018

    Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

    On Oct. 21, 1994, the United States and North Korea signed an agreement-the Agreed Framework-calling upon Pyongyang to freeze operation and construction of nuclear reactors suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program in exchange for two proliferation-resistant nuclear power reactors. The agreement also called upon the United States to supply North Korea with fuel oil pending construction of the reactors. An international consortium called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was formed to implement the agreement.

    The Agreed Framework ended an 18-month crisis during which North Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), under which North Korea committed not to develop nuclear weapons. (See ACA's Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy for more information on U.S.-North Korean nuclear relations.)

    The Agreed Framework succeeded in temporarily freezing North Korea’s plutonium production capabilities and placing it under IAEA safeguards by freezing operation of North Korea’s 5 MWe reactor at Yongbyon and stopping construction of two other reactors – a 50 MWe reactor at Yongbyon and a 200 MWe reactor at Taechon. In 2003, former Ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard concluded that without the Agreed Framework, North Korea could have as many as 100 nuclear weapons in 2003. 

    Agreed Framework Breakdown

    Following North Korea’s 1998 Taepodong missile test, the Clinton administration, with the assistance of former Secretary of Defense William Perry, conducted a North Korea policy review, which recommended building additional agreements on top of the Agreed Framework. However, just before the Clinton administration could reach an additional agreement with North Korea, President Bush was elected and began his own North Korea policy review, which stretched into 2002.

    Although the Bush administration review initially also called for further negotiations, before it could release the review, U.S. intelligence sources revealed that North Korea’s centrifuge program was pursuing technology for a uranium enrichment program, which would produce material for nuclear weapons.

    Rather than confront the North Koreans and demand they halt their efforts to create a uranium enrichment capability, the intelligence findings gave those in the Bush administration who opposed the Agreed Framework a reason to abandon it. John Bolton, then- undersecretary of state for arms control and international security under President Bush, later wrote that “this was the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.”

    At the behest of the Bush administration, KEDO announced Nov. 21, 2003 that it would suspend construction of the two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea for one year beginning Dec. 1. The suspension came in response to Pyongyang’s failure to meet “the conditions necessary for continuing” the project, according to the KEDO announcement.

    KEDO further stated that the project’s future “will be assessed and decided by [its] Executive Board before the expiration of the suspension period.” But a Department of State spokesperson said several days earlier that there is “no future for the project.”

    Furthermore, Washington announced that Pyongyang admitted during an Oct. 4, 2002 bilateral meeting to possessing a uranium-enrichment program, which could be used to build nuclear weapons and would violate North Korea’s commitment to forgo the acquisition of such weapons. North Korea initially denied that it said this, but later admitted to the existence of such a program when confronted with new evidence by U.S. officials. In response to the admission, KEDO suspended oil shipments to North Korea the next month. North Korea reacted Dec. 12 by announcing that it would restart the nuclear facilities governed by the Agreed Framework.

    After a series of exchanges with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), IAEA inspectors left the country Dec. 31 after Pyongyang expelled them. North Korea announced Jan. 10, 2003, that it was withdrawing from the NPT, effective the next day. Pyongyang’s official status with the treaty remains ambiguous.

    The construction of the future light-water reactors was far behind schedule. The first reactor was initially slated for completion in 2003 but was not likely to be operational until 2008 at the earliest. Numerous events—most notably North Korea’s Taepo Dong-1 missile test-firing in 1998—strained relations between Washington and Pyongyang, resulting in the construction delays.

    The agreement ultimately broke down, and negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program shifted to a larger process known as the Six Party Talks, which also included South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States.

    Terms of the Agreed Framework

    Joint U.S.-North Korean Obligations:

    • The United States and North Korea committed to move toward normalizing economic and political relations, including by reducing barriers to investment, opening liaison offices, and ultimately exchanging ambassadors.

    The Clinton administration made some progress on fulfilling this aspect of the framework toward the end of its second term, most notably when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang in October 2000. Additionally, in June 2000, Washington eased longstanding sanctions against North Korea under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Defense Production Act, and the Export Administration Act, clearing the way for increased trade, financial transactions, and investment. Pyongyang is still prohibited, however, from receiving U.S. exports of military and sensitive dual-use items and most related assistance.

    • Both sides commit not to nuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The United States must "provide formal assurances" not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against North Korea. Pyongyang is required to "consistently take steps" to implement the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    The United States' most recent commitment to this obligation was in the Oct. 12, 2000 Joint Communiqué between Washington and Pyongyang. The relevant portion reads: "The two sides stated that neither government would have hostile intent toward the other and confirmed the commitment of both governments to make every effort in the future to build a new relationship free from past enmity."

    Bush administration officials have said several times that the United States has no intention of attacking North Korea. A Jan. 7, 2003 joint statement from the United States, Japan, and South Korea reaffirmed this commitment in writing, stating that the United States "has no intention of invading" North Korea.

    The Bush administration, however, has sent mixed signals about its intentions toward North Korea. Pyongyang argues that the United States has not lived up to its commitment because President George W. Bush called North Korea part of an "axis of evil" in January 2002. North Korea reacted to the speech by accusing Washington of "pursuing [a] hostile policy to stifle the DPRK."

    In September 2002, the Bush administration released a report which emphasizes pre-emptively attacking countries developing weapons of mass destruction. It explicitly mentions North Korea. In addition, a leaked version of the Bush administration's January 2002 classified Nuclear Posture Review lists North Korea as a country against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons, although it does not mention pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

    North Korean Obligations

    • Reactor Freeze and Dismantlement: The framework calls for North Korea to freeze operation of its 5-megawatt reactor and plutonium-reprocessing plant at Yongbyon and construction of a 50-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon and a 200-megawatt plant at Taechon. These facilities are to be dismantled prior to the completion of the second light-water reactor.

    North Korea has restarted the reactor. Although North Korea has said it is developing a nuclear deterrent, it has not explicitly threatened to use any spent fuel from its restarted reactor to build nuclear weapons.

    • Inspections: North Korea must come into "full compliance" with IAEA safeguards when a "significant portion of the [light-water reactor] project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components." Full compliance includes taking all steps deemed necessary by the IAEA to determine the extent to which North Korea diverted material for weapons use in the past, including giving inspectors access to all nuclear facilities in the country. The CIA estimates that Pyongyang has not accounted for one to two nuclear weapons worth of plutonium from the Yongbyon reactor.

    The Agreed Framework states that North Korea must fully comply with IAEA safeguards when "a significant portion of the LWR project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components." The United States, however, had been demanding that North Korea begin cooperation with the IAEA as soon as possible, because the agency needs approximately three to four years to complete inspections. There had been concerns that waiting to start inspections until a significant portion of the project is completed would jeopardize the Agreed Framework's ultimate success, because it would further delay completion of the reactors. North Korea will no longer be required to comply with IAEA inspections once its withdrawal from the NPT is complete.

    • Spent Fuel: The spent fuel from North Korea's 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon is to be put into containers as soon as possible (a process called "canning") and removed from the country when nuclear components for the first light-water reactor begin to arrive after North Korea has come into full compliance with IAEA safeguards.

    The canning process, conducted with U.S. financing, began April 27, 1996, and was finished in April 2000. The spent fuel, however, remains in North Korea, and Pyongyang may have reprocessed it into weapons-grade plutonium. The amount of fuel is sufficient for several nuclear weapons, according to the CIA.

    • NPT Membership: The Agreed Framework requires that North Korea remain a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

    North Korea announced Jan. 10, 2003 that it was withdrawing from the treaty, effective Jan. 11. Although Article X of the NPT requires that a country give three months' notice in advance of withdrawing, North Korea argues that it has satisfied this requirement because it originally announced its decision to withdraw March 12, 1993, and suspended the decision one day before it was to become legally binding. Whether North Korea remains an NPT state-party is ambiguous.

    U.S. Obligations

    • Establish and Organize KEDO: This includes the securing of diplomatic and legal rights and guarantees necessary to implement the light-water reactor project.

    KEDO was established March 9, 1995, and membership included 12 states and the European Union, which provide electrical-power supplies and financial assistance to help KEDO implement the Agreed Framework. On May 31, 2006, KEDO officially ended its light-water reactor project, citing the failure of the DPRK to carry out the steps outlined in the KEDO-DPRK Supply Agreement. 

    • Implement the Light-Water Reactor Project: The United States is to facilitate the construction of two 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear power reactors.

    KEDO delegated responsibility to Japan and South Korea to finance and supply North Korea with two light-water reactors. After several years of site preparation, ground was broken in August 2001 in Kumho, North Korea. KEDO poured the concrete for the first reactor in August 2002, but suspended the project Dec. 1, 2003.

    • Provide Heavy-Fuel Oil Shipments: To compensate for the electricity-generating capacity that Pyongyang gave up by freezing its nuclear reactors, KEDO will supply North Korea with 500,000 metric tons of heavy-fuel oil annually until the light-water reactor project is completed.

    KEDO suspended the shipments in November 2002. The United States had provided the largest financial contribution for these shipments.

    Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

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    Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Israel

    July 2018


    Though Israeli officials have never confirmed or denied the existence of the country’s nuclear weapons and have stated that Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East, experts estimate that it possesses 80-90 nuclear warheads and enough fissile material for 200 total warheads. Israel has deliberately maintained a highly ambiguous nuclear posture and nuclear doctrine and has been secretive about its capabilities, but it is believed to have developed a nuclear triad for delivering its nuclear weapons. Some reports have claimed that Israel maintains offensive biological and chemical weapons activities. Israel is not a party to the NPT and never signed or ratified the Biological Weapons Convention and signed but never ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. Israeli officials have been vocal critics of the nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and have made public threats to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel has taken military action in the past against what it considered were proliferation threats in Iraq and Syria.


    Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

    Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

    Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

    • The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview 
    • Delivery Systems
    • Fissile Material
    • Proliferation Record
    • Nuclear Doctrine

    Biological Weapons

    Chemical Weapons

    Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

    • Conference on Disarmament (CD)
    • Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) 
    • Nuclear Security Summits
    • Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

    Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties




    Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty



    Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty



    Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)



    CPPNM 2005 Amendment



    Chemical Weapons Convention



    Biological Weapons Convention



    International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism



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    Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards



    Australia Group

    Not a member

    Missile Technology Control Regime

    Not a member but Israel has committed to maintaining export controls consistent with the regime

    Nuclear Suppliers Group

    Not a member

    Wassenaar Arrangement

    Not a member, but Israel has a domestic law that adopts all Wassenaar controls. 

    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol

    Israel has not negotiated such an agreement.

    Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism


    Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

    Not a participant

    Proliferation Security Initiative


    UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673

    Israel has filed the requested reports on its activities to fulfill the resolutions and volunteered to provide assistance to other states.

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    Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

    The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview

    Israel has never officially acknowledged that it possesses nuclear weapons and is not party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the official Israeli stance that Israel will not “be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.” Experts estimate that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of about 80-90 warheads, as of June 2019, with enough additional material for up to 200 nuclear weapons. Israel is believed to have developed a nuclear triad for delivering its nuclear warheads. 

    Delivery Systems

    Ballistic Missiles

    • Israel is believed to field an arsenal of nuclear-capable Jericho-II and Jericho–III missiles. The Jericho series is based on French technology and are likely road-and rail-mobile.
    • Israel is estimated to have anywhere from 25-100 Jericho missiles but most sources estimate that it possesses about 50. 
    • The short-range Jericho-I was first deployed in the early 1970s and has a range of 500 km but was retired from service in the 1990s.
    • The 1,500 km medium-range Jericho-II followed in the 1980s.
    • The Jericho-III is believed to have entered service in 2011. It was first tested in 2008 and again in 2011. Its range is estimated to be in between 4,800-6,500km, which would classify it as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

    Submarines and Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM)

    • There is uncertainty about Israel’s ability to launch nuclear weapons from sea-based platforms. Nonetheless, it is widely assumed that Israel possesses the capability.
    • Israel’s sea-based nuclear forces are based on five Dolphin-class submarines constructed by and acquired from Germany for the Israeli Navy beginning in 2000. A sixth submarine has been purchased and is expected to be delivered in 2018.
    • Israel is believed to have retrofitted the Dolphin-class vessels with an indigenously developed, dual-capable, submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) system with an estimated range of 1,500 km, although the Israeli government has denied its existance.
      • The British paper the Sunday Times reported the test of a nuclear version of this missile off the coast of Sri Lanka in June 2000.  
      • In June 2002, former State Department and Pentagon officials confirmed that the U.S. Navy observed Israeli missile tests in the Indian Ocean in 2000 and that the Dolphin-class has been fitted with nuclear-capable cruise missiles of a new design. 
    • There have been rumors that Israel’s SLCM in question is a modified version of the U.S.-supplied Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile or the Israeli Popeye Turbo air-launched missile.

    Strategic Bombers

    • Very little is known about Israel’s air-based nuclear forces. It is estimated that Israel maintains 30 nuclear gravity bombs to be delivered by aircraft.
    • The Israeli military possesses 205 F-16 Falcons and 25 F-15 Eagle aircrafts, some of which are believed to be equipped for nuclear weapon delivery.

    Fissile Material

    • Very little is known about Israel’s fissile materials production or stockpiles. The Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) is responsible for overseeing the country’s nuclear activities.


    • According to the 2015 Global Fissile Material Report, Israel may still produce plutonium for weapons via its 50-year-old Dimona (Negev Nuclear Research Center) plutonium production reactor constructed by France. The Dimona facility may also be used solely for producing tritium and the associated lithium-6 at this point.
    • As of January 2017, Israel is estimated to possess 860 kg of weapons-grade plutonium.

    Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)

    • As of 2017, Israel’s stockpile of HEU is estimated at approximately 300 kg; this stockpile may have been transferred from the United States in the 1960s, although that is not publically acknowledged by either government.

    Proliferation Record

    • Although a major exporter of conventional arms and military equipment, Israel is not known to have deliberately or significantly contributed to the spread of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons to other states, although the extent of Israel’s involvement in South Africa’s previously secret, now abandoned, nuclear weapons program is uncertain.
    • Under U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, Israel received nuclear training and technology potentially utilized in its nuclear weapons program. 
    • In 1994, the United States placed sanctions on Nahum Manbar, an Israeli businessman accused of supplying Iran with chemicals for its chemical weapons program.
    • The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has regularly published defensive chemical weapon research openly, along with other Israeli institutions such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
    • In June 1981, the Israeli Air Force bombed and destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor that it perceived as a threat. Similarly, in September 2007, the Israeli Air Force conducted an airstrike on a Syrian reactor after it failed to declare and provide design information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Israeli Defense Forces confirmed the attack in March 2018.
    • Israel has also made public threats to attack nuclear facilities in Iran to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons.
    • Israel is not party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

    Nuclear Doctrine

    Israel has long maintained a policy of ambiguity about its nuclear arsenal. Israeli officials never confirmed or denied the existence of nuclear weapons. Therefore, Israel has not made any statements about its willingness to use nuclear weapons. Israel maintains, however, that it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East. Israel generally abstains from voting on an annual UN General Assembly resolution that would establish international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would not be used against them, including recently in resolution 72/75 in 2017.

    Israel has never conducted an official nuclear weapons test. Israel may have jointly conducted a nuclear test with South Africa in 1979, but some experts argue that the observed phenomenon was not caused by a nuclear explosion. Israel has singed but not yet ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Israeli officials have made several statements indicating the country’s support for the treaty and ongoing efforts to ratify.

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    Biological Weapons

    • The Israeli government operates an extensive and sophisticated biodefense program.
    • It has not made public pronouncements on its biological weapons policy nor signed the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which is widely interpreted as an indication that Israel has some offensive capabilities.
    • Israel has taken steps to strengthen its export control regulations on dual-use biotechnologies.

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    Chemical Weapons

    • Israel has signed, but not ratified, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
    • Although the status of its formerly extensive offensive weapons program and stockpile is unknown, Israel is active in defensive research and believed to maintain advanced scientific-technical chemical weapons research and development infrastructure. 
    • Russian intelligence claimed in 1993 that “Israel has a store of chemical weapons of its own manufacture...[and] is capable of producing toxic substances of all types, including nerve-paralyzing, blister-producing and temporarily incapacitating substances and so forth.”
    • In 1999,  publications by the IIBR, funded by the Israel Ministry of Defense (MOD), revealed an "extensive effort to identify practical methods of synthesis for nerve gases (such as tabun, sarin, and VX) and other organophosphorous and fluorine compounds" according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
    • According to a 2008 report by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Israel may have stockpiles of weaponized nerve gas, but there is no firm evidence supporting this claim.
    • Israel has strengthened its export control regulations on dual-use chemicals since 2004, aligning them with Australia group standards.

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    Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

    Conference on Disarmament (CD)
    Israel participates in the CD. Prior to the nuclear deal with Iran, Israel opposed negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT), out of concern that it would not be an adequate safeguard against Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. At the 2012 CD, Israel did not mention the FMCT, but urged the members to focus on other issues, rather than the “four core issues” (nuclear disarmament, a fissile material cut-off treaty, prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances) that continue to be in a stalemate.

    Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ)
    Establishment of a WMDFZ in the Middle East was an integral part of the decision to indefinitely extend the NPT in 1995. At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, state parties agreed to hold a conference toward establishing such a zone by 2012. This meeting was postponed, however, over lack of agreement on the agenda. Following the failed effort in 2012, Israel participated in a series of consultations with Finnish coordinator Jaakko Laajava and the Arab Group. This effort halted after the 2015 NPT Review Conference failed to produce a final document to extend Laajava’s mandate. Israel’s ambiguity surrounding its nuclear capabilities and its refusal to sign the NPT has been cited as an obstacle to achieving these ends. 

    In 2015, Israel stated at the IAEA General Conference that the “decades-long quest for a WMD free Middle East requires a realistic evaluation… Israel, however, remains committed to its long-held vision of a more secure and peaceful Middle East.” Adding that “direct engagement, based on confidence building and trust, is essential to make progress towards the fulfillment of this vision.”

    The WMDFZ in the Middle East related to discussions on a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. In 1974, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a resolution endorsing the goal of establishing a nuclear weapons free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East following a proposal by Iran. In 1980, Israel joined the international consensus allowing the UNGA to pass a resolution supporting the goal of NWFZ without a vote although Israel maintained reservations.  

    Nuclear Security Summits
    Israel participated in all four Nuclear Security Summits.

    Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
    As a key regional power and long-time adversary of Iran, Israel took an avid interest in the negotiation of the July 2015 JCPOA, which limits and rolls back Iran’s nuclear program. The deal was fiercely opposed by the Israeli government which viewed it as a “historic surrender” and a threat to its national security. After the brokering of the agreement, Netanyahu said that "Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves."

    Responding to President’s Trump May 8, 2018 decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, Netanyahu said that “Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran.”

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    Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Pakistan

    July 2018


    Pakistan developed nuclear weapons outside of the NPT and is believed to possess an arsenal of 150-160 nuclear warheads. Pakistan is expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country and developing new delivery systems, including development of the sea-based leg of a nuclear triad and speculated development of an ICBM. Pakistan’s nuclear program has largely been driven by its regional rivalry with India since India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974. Numerous Pakistani entities and individuals have been sanctioned by the U.S. for nonproliferation violations, though many are still believed to be actively exporting nuclear weapons technologies and know-how. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is a source of security concern given its political instability and robust extremist groups in the country, though Pakistani and U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are secure.


    Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

    Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

    Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

    • The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview
    • Delivery Systems
    • Fissile Material
    • Proliferation Record
    • Nuclear Doctrine

    Biological Weapons

    Chemical Weapons

    Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

    • Bilateral Talks with India
    • Nuclear Security Summits
    • Conference on Disarmament (CD)


    Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties




    Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty



    Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty



    Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)



    CPPNM 2005 Amendment



    Chemical Weapons Convention



    Biological Weapons Convention



    International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism



    *Pakistan stated that it will not be bound by the provisions of Paragraph 2, Article 2, or by the dispute settlement procedures in Paragraph 2, Article 17

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    Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards



    Australia Group

    Not a member

    Missile Technology Control Regime

    Not a member. Pakistani entities have been sanctioned by the United States for engaging in trade involving missiles and missile technologies controlled by the regime.

    Nuclear Suppliers Group

    Not a member

    Wassenaar Arrangement

    Not a member

    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol

    No, Pakistan has not negotiated such an agreement.

    Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism


    Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

    Not a participant

    Proliferation Security Initiative

    Not a participant

    UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673

    Pakistan has filed the requested report on its activities to fulfill the resolution and volunteered to provide assistance to other states.

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    Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

    The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview

    Pakistan developed nuclear weapons outside of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Pakistan’s nuclear program dates back to the 1970s and was spurred on by India’s first nuclear test in 1974. Pakistan is estimated to have a nuclear arsenal of 150-160 warheads. As of 2016, Pakistan is expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country and developing new delivery systems for its warheads. Pakistan is also be working on the sea-based leg of a nuclear triad.

    Delivery Systems

    Short-Range Ballistic Missile (<1,000 or less km)

    • Hatf-1: Short-range, solid-fueled ballistic missile with a range of 70-100 km.
    • Abdali (Hatf-2): Flight-tested six times; entered service in 2005. Nuclear role ambiguous; 180-200 km range; single warhead. 
    • Ghaznavi (Hatf-3): 290 km range.
    • Shaheen-1 (Hatf-4): 750 km range.
    • Shaheen-1A (Hatf-4): Under development, an improved variant of the Shaheen-1. First tested in 2012, may see deployment in 2017. Listed by Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris as having a 900 km range, but following its first test it was reported to be a medium-range missile.
    • Nasr (Hatf-9): Under development; 60 km range. Each NASR launcher, however, contains 4 missile tubes primarily for conventional payloads. 

    Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (1,000-3,000 km)

    • Shaheen-2 (Hatf-6): 1,500-2,000 km range.
    • Shaheen-3 (Hatf-10): Under development; underwent two successful tests in 2015; may see deployment in 2018. The Pakistani government said the missile was capable of delivering a nuclear or conventional warhead for 2,750 km.  
    • Ghauri-1 (Hatf-5): 1,250-1,500 km range.
    • Ghauri-2 (Hatf-5a): Medium-range liquid propellant missile under development with an expected range of at least 1,800 km.
    • Ababeel: Under development; 2,200km range; reportedly capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs).

    Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM)

    It is speculated, albeit loosely, that the Taimur missile, with a range of 7,000 km, is an ICBM under development.

    Cruise Missiles

    • Babur (Hatf-7): ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles; 350 km range (Pakistani government claims 700 km).
    • Babur-2: ground-launched cruise missile; 700 km range; deployment status unknown. 
    • Babur-3: sea-based cruise missile; 450 km range; deployment status unknown.
    • Ra’ad (Hatf-8): nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missile; status unknown; may be deployed in 2017
    • Ra'ad-2: nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missile; range of greater than 350 km; revealed in March 2017 and expected to be deployed in 2018.

    Submarines, Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM), and Submarine-Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCM)

    • Pakistan does not currently possess SLBMs. Following the launch of India’s INS Arihant submarine in 2009, the Pakistan Navy announced its intention to build a nuclear submarine of its own, and in 2012 the Navy announced it would start construction. According to the Navy, the submarine is an ambitious project, will be designed and built indigenously, and will take between 5 and 8 years. It not yet clear if Pakistan is attempting to complete the nuclear triad.
    • According to Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, there are indications that Pakistan is developing a nuclear weapon for deployment on submarines. Pakistan’s announcement that it would stand up a Naval Strategic Force Command in 2012 also points to an interest in developing sea-based capabilities.
    • There was a confirmed test of the nuclear-capable Babur cruise missile from a mobile underwater platform in January 2017. It may be converted for use on submarines.
    • In April 2018, Pakistan announced that it had conducted a second successful flight test of its Babur-3 nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile which has a range of 450 km. 

    Strategic Bombers

    • Pakistan’s available delivery vehicles include dual-use fighter aircraft, reportedly the U.S.-origin F-16A/B and French-origin Mirage 2000 fighter jets. The planes were not transferred for the purpose of delivering nuclear bombs, but Pakistan is believed to have modified them for that mission. Both were deployed in 1998.
    • F-16A/B: ~24 nuclear-capable F-16A/Bs; ~24 nuclear bombs; plane has a 1,600 km range.
    • Mirage III/V: ~12 nuclear-capable Mirage III/Vs; ~12 nuclear bombs or Ra’ad cruise missiles; plane has a 2,100 km range.  

    Fissile Material

    • Specific estimates of Pakistan's stockpiles of fissile material are difficult to determine, given uncertainty about Pakistan's uranium enrichment capacity.
    • In contravention of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has supplied Pakistan with 4 nuclear power reactors, the Chasnupp-1,-2,-3, and-4. The fourth reactor, the Chasnupp-4, went critical in March 2017. In addition, China has supplied Pakistan with Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) for use in these reactors.

    Highly Enriched Uranium

    • As of the end of 2016, Pakistan is estimated to possess approximately 3.4 ± 0.4 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU).


    • As of the end of 2016, Pakistan is estimated to possess 280 kg of weapons-grade plutonium.
    • By the end of 2015, Pakistan was operating four reactors that produce plutonium for weapons at Khushab. Khushab-I began operations in 1997/98, Khushab-II in 2009/10, Khushab-III in early 2013, and Kushab-IV in 2015.
    • Pakistan separates the plutonium from the spent reactor fuel at the Rawalpindi New Labs facility, which has two reprocessing plants. Another reprocessing facility may be being constructed at Chashma as of 2015.

    Proliferation Record

    • The foundation of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program was aided by the theft of nuclear technology and know-how from the European company URENCO by scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who became a leading figure in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons establishment. Khan is also believed to have received a nuclear weapon design from China. Although U.S. intelligence was aware of Pakistan’s illicit program, the United States continued to provide military assistance and foreign aid to Islamabad up until 1990 when President George H. W. Bush decided that he could no longer certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device. U.S. sanctions related to Pakistan’s nuclear program were dropped after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when the United States decided to pursue closer relations with Pakistan as part of the U.S. declared “war on terror.”
    • Abdul Qadeer Khan had also developed a black market network of suppliers to procure technology and know-how for Pakistan’s secret nuclear weapons program and then transformed that network into a supply chain for other states. Iran, Libya, and North Korea were all clients and other states might have been as well. After the interception of one of his shipments to Libya in October 2003, Khan appeared on Pakistani television in February 2004 and confessed to running the network, which transferred items ranging from centrifuges to bomb designs.
    • The Pakistani government denied any complicity in or knowledge of the network and confined Khan to house arrest. Although reportedly serving as an intermediary to foreign governments, the Pakistani government has not made Khan available to direct interviews by other states. General concern exists that remnants of the network might still be functioning.
    • Pakistan instituted new export control laws following the public exposure of Khan’s network in 2004, including the establishment of the Strategic Export Control Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pakistan's control list now includes dual-use materials in an effort to meet the regulatory standards of export control regimes.
    • Numerous Pakistani entities and—more recently—individuals, including Abdul Qadeer Khan himself, have been placed under U.S. nonproliferation sanctions, many of which are still active.  

    Nuclear Doctrine

    Pakistan has pledged no first use against non-nuclear weapon states. Pakistan’s policy on first use against states that possess nuclear weapons, particularly India, remains vague. Although Pakistani officials have claimed that nuclear weapons would be used only as a matter of last resort in such a conflict with India, some analysts contend that Islamabad’s development of battlefield nuclear weapons to counter Indian conventional forces raises questions as to how central Pakistani nuclear weapons are in its security doctrine.

    In a 2015 statement, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is one-dimensional, that is it “not for starting a war.” He also said in 2015 that Pakistan is capable of answering aggression from India due to Islamabad’s development of short-range tactical nuclear weapons. According to Hans Kristensen, “Pakistan is modifying its nuclear posture with new short-range nuclear-capable weapon systems to counter military threats below the strategic level.” 

    Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are believed to be stored in a disassembled state, with the fissile core kept separate from the warhead package. This practice greatly increases the time required to deploy the weapons.

    Due to severe political instability from extremist groups in Pakistan, there is unease regarding the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, materials, and facilities from both insurgent threats and insider collusion. Pakistan has shared critical information about its nuclear activities with the U.S., and both Pakistani and U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that Pakistani nuclear assets are secure from such threats.


    Pakistan has conducted two nuclear weapon tests, although one of those involved five simultaneous explosions. The first test occurred May 28, 1998, and the last took place May 30, 1998. In 1990, China is believed to have tested a Pakistani derivative of the nuclear design Beijing allegedly gave to Khan.

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    Biological Weapons

    • There is no evidence that a Pakistani biological weapons program exists, and the U.S. State Department has found no indication that Pakistan has faltered on its commitment to the BTWC.
    • Pakistan has increased its regulation of its biological industry. It has issued a set of biosafety rules in 2005 which established a National Biosafety Committee.

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    Chemical Weapons

    • Pakistan has no known chemical weapon stockpiles.
    • Pakistan has, in the 1990s, been accused of procuring large quantities of dual-use chemicals and supplying chemical weapons or chemical substances to non-state actors in the 1980s and 1990s.

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    Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

    Bilateral Talks with India

    • Signed the India-Pakistan non-Attack Agreement which entered into force in January 1991.
    • In 1992 India, signed the India-Pakistan Agreement on Chemical Weapons for the “complete prohibition of chemical weapons.”
    • After their tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998, Pakistan and India volunteered to abstain from nuclear testing.
    • Established a hotline to reduce the risk of accidental nuclear war and agreed to exchange advance notifications of ballistic missile flight tests.
    • In 2007, the fifth round of talks regarding the review of nuclear and ballistic missile-related confidence-building measures took place as part of the Composite Dialogue Process.

    Nuclear Security Summits
    Pakistan has attended all four Nuclear Security Summits. Pakistan claimed, in its 2016 NSS National Statement, that “As a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan takes nuclear security very seriously and accords it the highest priority in its security construct. Our nuclear security paradigm, evolved over the years, is effective and responsive against the entire range of possible threats. Nuclear security regime in Pakistan is dynamic and regularly reviewed and updated.”

    Conference on Disarmament (CD)
    Established in 1979 as a multilateral disarmament negotiating forum by the international community, Pakistan has been a regular and active participant in the CD. Pakistan has blocked the start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) at the 65-member CD. Islamabad has insisted that an FMCT must cover existing stocks of fissile material due to concerns about India's current stockpile, and is preventing the body from reaching consensus on an agenda that would allow negotiations on the treaty to begin. In an interview with Arms Control Today, Pakistani permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva Zamir Akram indicated that the decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to remove the ban on sales of nuclear material to India was a major barrier to Pakistani support for an FMCT. He said that Pakistan would support negotiations if it, too, received a waiver from the NSG.

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    IAEA Safeguards Agreements at a Glance

    June 2020

    Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102


    Safeguards agreements ensure that all nuclear activity a state undertakes is for peaceful purposes and that a state is not engaging in illicit nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is the independent organization charged with applying safeguards.

    The IAEA and Canada concluded the first safeguards agreement in 1959 and in 1961, the IAEA’s Board of Governors approved a document outlining the principles of safeguards. Since 1961, both the scope and application of safeguards have evolved.

    Under Article III of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), all non-nuclear weapons states-parties are required to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, known as a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA or INFCIRC/153 corrected). Given the near-universal membership in the NPT, safeguards are now widespread.

    These agreements allow for states to exercise their right under the NPT to peaceful nuclear energy without causing concern that they may actually be developing nuclear weapons in violation of the treaty.

    The five NPT nuclear weapons states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) are not required to have IAEA safeguards agreements under the NPT. All five, however, have signed voluntary offer safeguards agreements that permit the IAEA to apply safeguards to material in select eligible facilities. This covers civilian nuclear material and sites. All five nuclear weapon states have also concluded additional protocols to the voluntary offer safeguards agreements.

    States with minimal or no nuclear material may sign a small quantities protocol, abstaining them from some of the obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement as long as they meet certain criteria. The small quantifies protocol was revised in 2005, and now contains fewer exemptions.

    Non-states-parties to the NPT may also sign safeguards agreements with the IAEA known as item-specific safeguards agreements.  India, Pakistan and Israel for instance, have placed civil nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and India has an Additional Protocol in force.

    IAEA safeguards measures do not prohibit additional bilateral or multilateral safeguards measures. For instance, Brazil and Argentina reached an agreement on bilateral safeguards inspections in 1991 (ABACC) and Euratom’s safeguards, which predated the NPT requirement, and contribute to its member states’ safeguards agreements negotiated with the agency. 

    Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA)

    The Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) is required for non-nuclear-weapon states under the NPT and is an option for non-NPT members. In concluding a CSA with the IAEA, states must declare the type and quantity of material subject to safeguards in an initial report. The IAEA verifies that a state’s declaration of nuclear material is correct and complete. A CSA also gives the IAEA the authority to independently verify that all nuclear material in the territory or jurisdictional control of a state is not diverted for nuclear weapons or explosives purposes and that nuclear facilities are not misused. 

    The IAEA notes four main processes for the implementation of safeguards. 

    1. Collection and evaluation of safeguards-relevant information: The IAEA collects safeguards-relevant information to determine if a state’s declarations about its nuclear program are correct.
    2. Development of a safeguards approach for a state: A safeguards approach indicates which safeguards measures are needed to verify a state’s declarations.
    3. Planning, conducting and evaluating safeguards activities: The IAEA then develops a plan to conduct the safeguards activities based on the safeguards approach and identifies areas that may need to be followed up.
    4. Drawing of a safeguards conclusion: Upon completing the safeguards implementation cycle, the IAEA issues safeguards conclusions, which provide credible assurances to the international community that states are abiding by safeguards commitments.

    According to the IAEA, there are 175 states with Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements, as of June 2020. Each year the IAEA reports on safeguards implementation to the agency’s Board of Governors, which is comprised of IAEA member states.

    Strengthening Safeguards

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began an effort in 1993 to better constrain NPT member-states' ability to illicitly pursue nuclear weapons after secret nuclear weapons programs in Iraq and North Korea exposed weaknesses in existing agency safeguards.

    Program 93+2

    Iraq, an NPT state-party, successfully circumvented IAEA safeguards by exploiting the agency's system of confining its inspection and monitoring activities to facilities or materials explicitly declared by each state in its safeguards agreement with the agency. To close the "undeclared facilities" loophole, the IAEA initiated a safeguards improvement plan known as "Program 93+2." The plan's name reflected that it was drafted in 1993 with the intention of being implemented in two years.

    Putting "Program 93+2" into effect, however, took more time than expected, and the program has subsequently been implemented in two parts. The IAEA, within its existing authority, initiated the first part in January 1996. This first step added new monitoring measures, such as environmental sampling, no-notice inspections at key measurement points within declared facilities, and remote monitoring and analysis.

    Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to a Safeguards Agreement

    Modified Code 3.1 requires countries to submit design information for new nuclear facilities to the IAEA as soon as the decision is made to construct, or authorize construction, of the facility. Modified Code 3.1 was introduced in the early 1990s to replace the 1976 code, which only required states to inform the IAEA of new facilities not later than 180 days after the beginning of its construction. States that implement Modified Code 3.1 provide the IAEA with additional time to respond to a state’s expansion of its nuclear program and to adjust safeguard agreements as needed. 

    The Model Additional Protocol (AP)

    The second part of "Program 93+2" required a formal expansion of the agency's legal mandate in the form of an additional protocol to be adopted by each NPT member to supplement its existing IAEA safeguards agreement. The IAEA adopted a Model Additional Protocol on May 15, 1997. The essence of the Additional Protocol is to reshape the IAEA's safeguards regime from a quantitative system focused on accounting for known quantities of materials and monitoring declared activities to a qualitative system aimed at gathering a comprehensive picture of a state's nuclear and nuclear-related activities, including all nuclear-related imports and exports. The Additional Protocol also substantially expands the IAEA's ability to check for clandestine nuclear facilities by providing the agency with authority to visit any facility, declared or not, to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in a state's nuclear declarations. NPT states-parties are not required to adopt an Additional Protocol, although the IAEA is urging all to do so.

    The model protocol outlined four key changes that must be incorporated into each NPT state-party's Additional Protocol.

    1. Expanded amount and type of information to be provided to the IAEA
    • In addition to the current requirement for data about nuclear fuel and fuel-cycle activities, states will now have to provide an "expanded declaration" on a broad array of nuclear-related activities, such as "nuclear fuel cycle-related research and development activities—not involving nuclear materials" and "the location, operational status and the estimated annual production" of uranium mines and thorium concentration plants. Thorium can be processed to produce fissile material, the key ingredient for nuclear weapons.
    • All trade in items on the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) trigger list will have to be reported to the IAEA as well. The NSG is a group of 48 nuclear supplier countries that seeks to voluntarily prevent the use of peaceful nuclear technology for military purposes by restricting nuclear and nuclear-related exports.
    1. Increased number and type of facilities the IAEA can inspect
    • In order to resolve questions about or inconsistencies in the information a state has provided on its nuclear activities, the new inspection regime provides the IAEA with "complementary," or pre-approved, access to "any location specified by the Agency," as well as all of the facilities specified in the "expanded declaration."
    • By negotiating an additional protocol, states will, in effect, guarantee the IAEA access on short notice to all of their declared and, if necessary, undeclared facilities in order "to assure the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities."
    1. Streamlining the visa process for inspectors
    • The agency's ability to conduct short notice inspections is augmented by streamlining the visa process for inspectors, who are guaranteed to receive within one month's notice "appropriate multiple entry/exit" visas that are valid for at least a year.
    1. Increased right to use environmental sampling
    • The Additional Protocol provides for the IAEA's right to use environmental sampling during inspections at both declared and undeclared sites.
    • It further permits the use of environmental sampling over a wide area rather than being confined to specific facilities.

    Credit: International Atomic Energy Agency

    As of October 2019, 136 countries and Euratom have concluded Additional Protocols that are now in force. Another 15 states have signed Additional Protocols but have yet to bring them into force. Iran applies its Additional Protocol pending its pursuit of ratification as part of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 (now the P4+1). 

    Although the Additional Protocol is widely accepted as a standard safeguards practice, several states have opposed the expansion of safeguards to include it.

    Integrated Safeguards

    In addition to strengthening safeguards through the adoption of the Model Additional Protocol, in the late 1990s and 2000s, the IAEA also developed methods to improve the efficiency and efficacy of safeguards implementation for states with both CSAs and APs in force. The IAEA began using a “state-level concept” to evaluate a state’s compliance with safeguards agreements comprehensively, instead of on a facility-by-facility basis. It also began issuing “broader conclusion” determinations for states in order to ease safeguards implementation burdens by applying the state-level approach.

    Broader Conclusion

    The IAEA began issuing a “broader conclusion” designation for certain states with both the CSA and AP in force as part of a continuing effort to improve the efficiency and efficacy of safeguards and to cut costs. The IAEA must recertify a broader conclusion each year, verifying that a state’s declaration is both correct and complete. In other words, its nuclear material must remain in peaceful purposes with no indication of diversion.

    If the IAEA derives a broader conclusion for a state, it may implement “integrated safeguards,” which are tailored to each individual state. Therefore, the resulting safeguards enforcement for that state becomes less burdensome and less costly.

    The first state with a broader conclusion was Australia in 1999. The IAEA drew broader conclusions for 69 states in June 2017. 

    State-Level Concept

    Over the years, the IAEA has also developed the state-level concept, which has become the designation for an integrated safeguards approach. Under the state-level concept, the IAEA considers each state as a whole when implementing and evaluating safeguards, including nuclear-related activities and capabilities, instead of examining each facility in a given state separately. Based on the broader range of information, the agency can then tailor a safeguards approach to the specific country.

    The term “state-level concept” was first used in an IAEA document in 2005 although the IAEA had been following the practice since the early 1990s. The state-level concept is used for all states with a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, an Additional Protocol in force, and a broader conclusion finding.  In a 2013 report, the Director-General of the IAEA indicated his intent to continue to develop state-level approaches for safeguards implementation for additional states.

    The IAEA developed state-level approaches for five additional states in 2018, bringing the total number of countries with a comprehensive safeguards agreement and a developed state-level approach to 130. According to the IAEA in 2018, "these 130 states hold 97% of all nuclear material (by significant quantity) under Agency safeguards in states with a comprehensive safeguards agreement."

    Note: This factsheet was previously titled “The 1997 IAEA Additional Protocol at a Glance.”

    Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

    Fact Sheet Categories:

    Chemical Weapons: Frequently Asked Questions

    August 2020

    Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 102.

    Last Reviewed: August 2020

    The use and possession of chemical weapons is prohibited under international law. However, several nations continue to maintain active chemical weapons programs, despite a prevailing norm against the use of chemical weapons and international efforts to destroy existing stockpiles.

    The following are basic answers to frequently asked questions regarding the different types of chemical weapons and delivery systems, the history of chemical weapons use, international legal regimes that seek to curb the use and stockpiling of chemical weapons, and current efforts to verifiably destroy chemical weapons arsenals.

    I. What are chemical weapons?
    II. How are chemical weapons delivered?
    III.  When have chemical weapons been used?
    IV. Are chemical weapons prohibited?
    V. What are riot control agents? What is the status of riot control agents under the CWC?
    VI. Who has chemical weapons?
    VII. How are chemical weapons destroyed?

    I. What are chemical weapons?

    A chemical weapon is any toxic chemical that can cause death, injury, incapacitation, and sensory irritation, deployed via a delivery system, such as an artillery shell, rocket, or ballistic missile. Chemical weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction and their use in armed conflict is a violation of international law.

    Primary forms of chemical weapons include nerve agents, blister agents, choking agents, and blood agents. These agents are categorized based on how they affect the human body.

    Nerve agents. Generally considered the most deadly of the different categories of chemical weapons, nerve agents – in liquid or gas form - can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Nerve agents inhibit the body’s respiratory and cardiovascular capability by causing severe damage to the central nervous system, and can result in death. The most common nerve agents include Sarin, Soman, and VX.

    Blister agents. Blister agents can come in forms of gas, aerosol, or liquid and cause severe burns and blistering of the skin. They can also cause complications to the respiratory system if inhaled and digestive tract if ingested. Common forms of blister agents include Sulfur Mustard, Nitrogen Mustard, Lewisite and Phosgene Oximine.

    Choking agents. Choking agents are chemical toxins that directly attack the body’s respiratory system when inhaled and cause respiratory failure. Common forms of choking agents include phosgene, chlorine, and chloropicrin.

    Blood agents. Blood agents interfere with the body’s ability to use and transfer oxygen through the bloodstream. Blood agents are generally inhaled and then absorbed into the bloodstream. Common forms of blood agents include Hydrogen Chloride and Cyanogen Chloride.

    Riot control agents, such as tear gas, are considered chemical weapons if used as a method of warfare. States can legitimately possess riot control agents and use them for domestic law enforcement purposes, but states that are members of the Chemical Weapons Convention must declare what type of riot agents they possess.

    II. How are chemical weapons delivered?

    A chemical weapon attack occurs in two phases: delivery and dissemination. The delivery phase refers to the launching of the rocket, bomb, or artillery shell. The dissemination phase involves the dispersal of the chemical agent from the weapon.

    Chemical weapons can be delivered via a variety of mechanisms including but not limited to; ballistic missiles, air-dropped gravity bombs, rockets, artillery shells, aerosol canisters, land mines, and mortars.

    Artillery shells are conventional shells that have been converted to disperse chemical weapons. The most traditional delivery vehicle of chemical agents, dispersion occurs through an explosive charge that expels the chemical agent laterally.

    Air delivered systems can be deployed via gravity bombs, spray tanks, or rockets. Ground detonated and airburst gravity bombs are generally delivered through fixed-wing aircraft, while helicopters have been traditionally deployed with spray tanks and rockets.

    Ballistic missiles carrying chemical weapons – via a fill tank or submunitions - utilize an airburst to disperse chemical agents over a broad area. The use of submunitions increases the area in which chemical agents can be dispersed. Compared to other delivery systems, ballistic missiles expand the range of targets that combatants can target with chemical weapons. However, the use of explosives to disperse the chemical agent reduces the potency of the weapon in combat situations.

    Cruise missiles. Unlike ballistic missiles, which utilize explosives to discharge the agent, cruise missiles can disperse chemical agents in a gradual and controlled fashion.

    Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs are another platform that combatants may utilize to disperse chemical agents. Like cruise missiles, UAVs are ideal platforms for slower dissemination due to controllable speeds, and dispersal over a wide area. UAVs can fly below radar detection and change directions, allowing them to be retargeted during flight.

    Dissemination is the most critical phase of a chemical weapon and generally determines its effectiveness. Generally, dissemination has been done via explosives that expel the agent laterally. Other forms of dissemination include aerodynamic dissemination, a non-explosive delivery mechanism that deploys the chemical agent through dispersion lines.

    III.  When have chemical weapons been used?

    The use of harmful chemicals in warfare, personal attacks, and assassinations dates back centuries, but the rise of industrial production of chemicals in the late 19th century opened the door to the more massive use of chemical agents in combat. The first major use of chemicals on the battlefield was in World War I when Germany released chlorine gas from pressurized cylinders in April 1915 at Ypres, Belgium. Ironically, this attack did not technically violate the 1899 Hague Peace Conference Declaration, the first international attempt to limit chemical agents in warfare, which banned only “the use of projectiles the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases.” Historians estimate that, with the introduction of mustard gases in 1917, chemical weapons and agents injured someone million soldiers and killed 100,000 during the 1914-1918 war.

    The 1925 Geneva Protocol sought to ban the use of biological and chemical weapons, but many of its signers joined with major reservations. China, France, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom all joined in the 1920s, but Japan did not join until 1970 and the United States until 1975. Between the two world wars, there were a number of reports of the use of chemical weapons in regional conflicts: Morocco in 1923-1926, Tripolitania (Libya) in 1930, Sinkiang (China) in 1934, Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935-1940, and Manchuria (China) in 1937-1942. World War II saw no major use of chemical weapons on the battlefield, with the exception of the Sino-Japanese conflict, and both President Franklin Roosevelt and German leader Adolf Hitler had stated publicly that they were personally against the first use of chemical weapons. Germany, however, did use deadly chemicals in the gas chambers of the Holocaust.

    Most of the major powers in World War II developed, produced, and stockpiled large amounts of chemical weapons during the war. Since the end of the war in 1945, there have been only sporadic reports of limited use of chemical weapons, including in the Yemen war of 1963-1967 when Egypt bombed Yemeni villages, killing some 1,500 people. The United States heavily used herbicides such as Agent Orange and tear gas in the Vietnam War in the 1960s; although such chemicals are not covered under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), some observers saw this as chemical warfare. Iraq used chemical weapons in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. These two cases provoked widespread public opposition to the horrors and indiscriminate nature of deadly chemical agents and certainly helped advance CWC negotiations, which had begun in the early 1980s, to their conclusion in 1992.

    For more on the history of chemical weapons, use see “Abolishing Chemical Weapons: Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities” in November 2010 Arms Control Today.

    The use of the nerve agent sarin by the Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo in June 1994 in Matsumoto, Japan, and again on March 20, 1995, in the Tokyo subway system, killing 19 people and injuring some 5,000, suddenly brought to light the potential threat of non-state actors intent on using weapons of mass destruction. The first official on-site inspection by the United States of a Russian chemical weapons stockpile in the Kurgan Oblast along the border of Kazakhstan in July 1994 illustrated that Russian chemical weapons arsenals left much to be desired regarding security against theft, diversion, and terrorism.

    Iraqi insurgents in recent years have combined tanks of chlorine gas with improvised explosive devices, but with little success. There were reports of the possible limited use of chemical agents by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and by Turkish troops against Kurdish rebels in eastern Turkey, but these allegations remain unproven. In public statements, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda threatened to use nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological weapons.

    In Syria, intelligence reports by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France assess that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against opposition forces on numerous occasions since 2012, including an August 2013 attack in Ghouta, outside of Damascus, that killed more than 1,400 people. The UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has found the Syrian government responsible for numerous chemical weapons attacks, including in April 2014, March 2015, March 2016 and April 2017 and the Islamic State responsible for chemical weapons attacks in August 2015 and September 2016. The OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) also attributed a series of March 2017 chemical attacks to the Syrian Air Force. Reports of chemical weapons use in Syria continue to surface. For a complete timeline of Syrian chemical weapons use see Timeline of Syrian Chemical Weapons Activity, 2012-2020.

    Kurdish and Iraqi military forces claim the Islamic State used chlorine gas in attacks in December 2014 and March 2015 in Iraq, but these accounts have not been verified by the OPCW.

    In February 2017, North Korean agents used VX, a nerve agent, to assassinate Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    In March 2018, the UK accused Russia of using a Novichok agent to assassinate a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, in the UK.

    IV. Are chemical weapons prohibited?

    Yes. The horrendous and widespread use of chemical weapons in World War I prompted international efforts to curb the use and production of chemical agents.

    The two major protocols that target chemical weapons are the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The former provides the initial international legal framework for controls on the use of chemical weapons, while the latter establishes comprehensive international standards that ban the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, use, transfer, or retention of chemical weapons for all CWC state parties.

    1925 Geneva Protocol: Signed in 1925, the Geneva Protocol was drafted and signed at the Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition, and prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in the field of conflict. While it prohibits the use of chemical weapons, the Geneva Protocol does not regulate the production, research or stockpiling of these weapons. It allows nations to reserve the right to retaliate with chemical weapons should it be subject to an adversarial chemical attack. It also does not regulate the use of chemical weapons for internal conflicts. However, over time, through customary international law, it is widely considered applicable to these conflicts as well. Interest in verifiable elimination of existing stockpiles of chemical weapons fueled the push for the more robust CWC in 1993.

    Chemical Weapons Convention: The Chemical Weapons Convention is a multilateral treaty that bans the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical weapons and requires all possessor states to destroy their stockpiles safely. Opened for signature in Paris on January 13, 1993, the CWC entered into force in April 29, 1997, and has 193 members, including Palestine. Currently one nation– Israel– has signed but not ratified the treaty, while three nations (Egypt, North Korea, and South Sudan) have neither signed nor acceded to the CWC.

    The CWC requires universal adherence to its protocols and establishes verification regimes that assure the destruction of member nations' chemical weapon stockpiles. The CWC requires member nations to declare all chemical weapons and chemical weapons sites, including research, development, and testing sites, to be subject to on-site inspection. According to Article VI of the treaty, destruction of a state party’s declared chemical weapons arsenal should begin no later than two years after the state joins the treaty and should finish no more than ten years after it has joined, although the treaty does allow a deadline extension of up to five years from that date. Verification is implemented through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), located in The Hague, Netherlands, and involves routine on-site inspections and reporting. The CWC also promotes multilateral cooperation on peaceful uses of chemistry and undertakes over 400 on-site inspections of the chemical industry annually.

    For more information on the CWC, see Chemical Weapons Convention at a Glance.

    V. What are riot control agents? What is the status of riot control agents under the CWC?

    Riot control agents (RCAs) are chemical agents used both to control and disperse crowds and as personal protection. RCAs temporarily impede human function by irritating the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin. Prolonged exposure or exposure to a high concentration of an RCA can cause blindness, respiratory failure, or death.

    The OPCW defines a chemical weapon as “a chemical used to cause intentional death or harm through its toxic properties.” In this respect, while the CWC does not overtly ban the production, stockpile, or use of RCAs, an RCA used as a method of warfare is prohibited by the CWC under this definition. States Parties agree under Article 1, Paragraph 5 of the Convention, “not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.”

    The Treaty permits use of RCAs by States for “domestic law enforcement purposes,” but requires States Parties to declare what RCAs they possess. Examples of common RCAs include Tear Gas (CS gas), Pepper Spray (OC), and Mace (CN).

    In some states, groups are advocating for tightened restrictions on RCA use by domestic law enforcement, citing the prohibition of their use in warfare under the CWC, their indiscriminate nature, and the possible long-term health effects that exposure to them can cause.

    VI. Who has chemical weapons?

    Eight countries declared chemical weapons stockpiles when they joined the CWC: Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, Syria, the United States, Russia and an anonymous state widely believed to be South Korea. Of those eight countries, Albania, South Korea, India, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Russia have completed destruction of their declared arsenals. Syria, however, may not have declared its entire stockpile. The United States plans to complete the destruction of its chemical weapons by September 2023.

    When Russia, the United States, and Libya declared that they would be unable to meet their final destruction deadlines in 2012, CWC state parties agreed to extend the deadlines with increased national reporting and transparency.

    Russia declared the largest stockpile with approximately 40,000 metric tons at seven arsenals in six regions of Russia. The United States declared 28,577 metric tons at nine stockpiles in eight states and on Johnston Atoll west of Hawaii. Albania and Libya declared the smallest stockpiles, with 16 and 23 metric tons respectively. India and South Korea declared stockpiles in the 500-1,000 metric ton range but maintained a high degree of secrecy around the size, location, composition, and destruction of their weapons.

    Syria admitted that it had chemical weapons in July 2012. It joined the CWC on September 12, 2013, declaring its chemical weapons stockpile and determining a plan for its elimination soon after. The OPCW announced that the entirety of Syria’s declared stockpile of 1,308 metric tons of sulfur mustard agent and precursor chemicals had been destroyed by January 2016. The destruction processes were carried out on board the US Merchant Marine ship, Cape Ray, and in four countries – Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, reports continue to surface of chemical weapon use in Syria, raising questions about the accuracy of its initial declaration. In July 2020, the OPCW Executive Council adopted a resolution addressing the ongoing possession and use of chemical weapons by Syria. That resolution called on the Syrian government to declare the remainder of its chemical stockpile and to resolve any inconsistencies regarding its initial stockpile declaration within 100 days, or by mid-October, 2020.

    North Korea, a non-signatory to the CWC, is widely reported to possess a large arsenal of chemical weapons, likely over 5,000 metric tons, including mustard, phosgene, and nerve agents. The use of VX nerve agent in the 2017 assassination in Kuala Lumpur strongly indicates that VX is part of North Korea’s chemical arsenal.

    For more information, see Chemical and Biological Weapons Status at a Glance.

    VII. How are chemical weapons destroyed?

    The United States: The United States began construction of its first prototype incinerator on Johnston Atoll in the 1980s. In 1990, it began burning 1,842 metric tons of chemical weapons, which had been secretly shipped from forward deployment in Germany and Okinawa many years earlier. When the CWC entered into force in 1997, the United States was already operating its first two incinerators on Johnston Atoll and in Tooele, Utah, which was the largest U.S. chemical weapons stockpile with 12,353 metric tons. The U.S. Army burned 1,436 metric tons, about 5 percent of the total chemical stockpile, at the two sites before the April 1997 entry into force.

    The U.S. Army initially planned to construct three centralized incinerators to destroy the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile, and early schedules optimistically showed the United States completing operations in 1994. Congress subsequently banned transportation of chemical munitions on safety and security grounds, necessitating the current plan for a destruction facility at each of the nine U.S. sites at which chemical weapons are stored.

    When the U.S. Senate finally approved the CWC, on April 25, 1997, after a long and contentious debate, the articles of ratification specified, among many other conditions, that the president place the highest priority on protection of public health and the environment and that the Army undertake the development and demonstration of nonincineration technologies for chemical weapons destruction.

    Today the United States has constructed and operated five large incinerators: on Johnston Atoll and in Tooele, Utah, as previously noted; in Umatilla, Oregon; in Anniston, Alabama; and in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The Johnston Atoll incinerator finished operations in 2000; the other four completed operations in 2012. In addition, neutralization facilities were built in Newport, Indiana, and Edgewood, Maryland; they chemically treated and destroyed bulk VX nerve agent and mustard agent. The remaining two chemical weapons stockpiles in Pueblo, Colorado, and Blue Grass, Kentucky, will each be destroyed by chemical neutralization, followed by second-stage treatments of bioremediation and super-critical water oxidation (SCWO). The Pueblo facility began operations in 2016, and Blue Grass began shortly after, in June 2019.

    In the OPCW’s annual report for 2018 it declared that the United States had destroyed approximately 90.6 percent - about 25,154 metric tons - of the chemical weapons stockpile it had declared as the CWC entered into force. The United States has destroyed all of Category 2 and Category 3 weapons. As of July 2020, the United States has 1,445.5 metric tons of mustard and nerve agents remaining in its stockpile. The United States is projected to complete destruction by September 2023.

    Russia: Russian officials made it clear in 1997, when they ratified the CWC, that they would need technical and financial support from other CWC members to meet its treaty deadlines. During the 1994 U.S. visit to Russia, Russian military officials and the chairman of the Duma defense committee rejected a U.S. offer made by the assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs to construct an incinerator at the Shchuch’ye chemical weapons stockpile. Russian officials wanted to determine their own technologies for demilitarization and were very wary of incineration as too complex, too expensive, too dangerous, and too politically contentious.

    The first Russian chemical weapons demilitarization facility, built and funded as a prototype facility by Germany for neutralizing lewisite, an older, arsenic-based chemical agent, opened in 2002 at Gorny in the Saratov Oblast. Since then, Russia has been able to open five more destruction facilities, the last at Kizner in the Udmurt Republic.

    Most of these facilities have been supported financially by the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, founded by the Group of Eight at its summit meeting in Kananaskis, Canada, in 2002. As of 2010, the United States through the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR or Nunn-Lugar) program committed more than $1 billion since the mid-1990s to the planning and construction of the neutralization facility at Shchuch’ye, while Germany has committed $475 million (340 million euros) to construction at Gorny, Kambarka, and Pochep. Canada and the United Kingdom have contributed some $82 million and $39 million, respectively, while at least another 10 additional countries have contributed some $25 million.

    On September 27, 2017, the OPCW announced that Russia had completed the destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal.

    Libya: Libya joined the CWC in 2004 and, in its submittal at the time, declared 23 metric tons of mustard agent in bulk containers. In addition, it declared one inactivated chemical weapons production facility, two chemical weapons storage sites, 1,300 metric tons of precursor chemicals, and 3,563 unfilled aerial bombs. It first planned on eliminating its chemical agent stockpile by the 2007 deadline.

    However, after aborted attempts at U.S. and Italian partnerships in its demilitarization program, it asked for several OPCW deadline extensions. Destruction of the stockpile was halted in February 2011 due to the armed uprising that resulted in the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. At that time, 11.5 metric tons of chemical weapons remained in Libya’s declared stockpiles.

    Libya subsequently declared an additional chemical weapons stockpile and completed the destruction of its Category 1 chemical weapons in January 2014. With assistance from the OPCW and other member states including Canada and Denmark, Libya removed all of the remaining precursor chemicals from its territory for destruction in August 2016. The Syria case, which set the precedent for destroying chemical weapons outside of the country of origin, paved the way for shipping the remaining chemicals out of Libya for destruction in Germany. Libya completed the destruction of all its chemical weapons in January 2018.

    For more information on the destruction of Libya’s chemical weapons see Chronology of Libya’s Disarmament and Relations with the United States.

    Iraq: Iraq joined the CWC in early 2009 and declared two large, sealed "Al Muthana" bunkers in the Fallujah region with chemical weapons and related equipment and debris from the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Because at least one of these bunkers had been hit by aerial bombs in the war, there is no final inventory of weapons and agents, nor a thorough evaluation of the possible risks of open agents or unexploded ordnance in the bunkers. The OPCW declared Iraq's destruction complete in March 2018.

    Albania: Albania was the first possessor state to destroy its stockpile. Although it joined the CWC in 1994, it did not acknowledge its possession of 16 metric tons of mustard agent (as well as small quantities of lewisite and other chemicals) until 2003. The OPCW declared Albania’s destruction complete in July 2007.

    South Korea: South Korea refused to acknowledge its stockpile in any public presentations, including the annual speeches by its ambassador to the OPCW, and has claimed full confidentiality (“highly protected information”) under the Confidentiality Annex of the CWC; all OPCW delegations and staff therefore refer to it as “A State Party” in reference to declared possessor states. South Korea completed the destruction of its chemical weapons in 2008.

    India: India declared a stockpile of 1,044 tons of sulfur mustard in 1997 after ratifying the CWC in 1996. India completed the destruction of its entire chemical weapons stockpile in 2009.

    -Research Assistance by Julia Masterson

    Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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